Theft of top-secret CIA hacking tools was result of “woefully lax” security

Theft of top-secret CIA hacking tools was result of “woefully lax” security

Enlarge (credit: Library of Congress)

In early 2017, WikiLeaks began publishing details of top-secret CIA hacking tools that researchers soon confirmed were part of a large tranche of confidential documents stolen from one of the agency’s isolated, high-security networks. The leak—comprising as much as 34 terabytes of information and representing the CIA’s biggest data loss in history—was the result of “woefully lax” practices, according to portions of a report that were published on Tuesday.

Vault 7, as WikiLeaks named its leak series, exposed a trove of the CIA’s most closely guarded secrets. They included a simple command line that agency officers used to hack network switches from Cisco and attacks that compromised Macs, in one case using a tool called Sonic Screwdriver, which exploited vulnerabilities in the extensible firmware interface that Apple used to boot devices. The data allowed researchers from security firm Symantec to definitively tie the CIA to a hacking group they had been tracking since 2011.

Proliferation over security

Agency officials soon convened the WikiLeaks Task Force to investigate the practices that led to the massive data loss. Seven months after first Vault 7 dispatch, the task force issued a report that assessed the extent and the cause of the damage. Chief among the findings was a culture within the CIA hacking arm known as the CCI—short for the Center for Cyber Intelligence—that prioritized the proliferation of its cyber capabilities over keeping them secure and containing the damage if they were to fall into the wrong hands.

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