Wikileaks, in early March, disclosed the secret of “Vault 7” to the world, in which was the first part of the series obtained, titled “Year Zero”, comprising of more than 8,700 documents and files, which are supposedly classified materials from the Central Intelligence Agency. This has been claimed as the largest disclosure of secrets in history with the CIA as the target, while this has indeed shed light on illegal proceedings by various departments, at the same time the disclosure have turned what was once long standing conspiracy theories into actuality.
Once Vault 7’s declassified material has been exposed, media organisations around the world immediately jumped onto the bandwagon, and of course Hong Kong’s mainstream media were no exceptions. Having a somewhat comprehensive understanding of the disclosure and the contents of the declassified information directly through Wikileaks’ official channels, I have a few words to say in regards to Hong Kong mainstream media’s reporting methods in relations to this disclosure. Firstly, the contents of the reports were incomplete. This results from Hong Kong’s self-censorship climate, where certain important parts of the declassified contents were expectedly and deliberately omitted. In addition, Hong Kong’s local media nevertheless can only provide detached commentary as an outsider on the misfortunes of the US from far away; with the belief that this has nothing to do with Hong Kong, any investigation into the disclosure would therefore lack in depth as well as further follow-up reports, disappearing from Hong Kong’s mainstream news reports after 24 hours.
Hence, during the live broadcast of Passion Times’ show The National Stage of which I co-hosted, the afternoon following the release of the declassified information, we briefly talked about the following points in regards to this disclosure by Wikileaks, hoping that at least some Hong Kongers would have a more comprehensive grasp on the matter:
- CIA’s Hacker Sub-division: in between 2013 and 2016, the CIA formed a subdivision that researched and developed thousands of different computer viruses, Trojans, malwares, cyberattacks, as well as the technologies and tools thereof.
- Monitoring and interception of mass communications: the CIA possess technologies that can intrude upon mass communication devices, allowing them to monitor mass communication processes in real-time, as well as stealing communication records.
- Finding loopholes in electronic devices: the CIA can attack these loopholes in order to access channels where they can steal information; the CIA can then remotely access and control these products’ visual and audio recording devices. With the owners unawared, they can make visual and audio record in close proximity to the devices. Moreover, the CIA can also directly open the devices’ channels of information transmissions through this setup, without the hassle of having to decode the encryptions of softwares such as Whatsapp; and since this problem is lurking inside the hardware, it is impossible for software and apps developers to guard against.
- Exporting compromised electronic devices overseas: the CIA would arrange for these previously setup electronic products to other countries, distributing them to their respective governments, organisations, media outlets and so on, in order to monitor their every move.
- Every major electronic brands are affected: every major brand of electronic products such as Apple iOS, Google Android, Samsung and Microsoft are the targets of CIA’s attacks.
- Turning smart TV into audio recorders: the CIA and MI5 have jointly developed a technology known as “Crying Angels”, specifically attacking Samsung smart TV, accessing its internal audio device to record surrounding sounds. Even if the TV is switched off or set to sleep, the audio device can still be accessed by the CIA with none the wiser.
- Hacker attacks: the CIA had organised and mobilised numerous occasions of cyber attacks targeting private businesses and individual persons under the code name “Zero Day”.
- Framing and fabrications: the CIA would employ hackware and tools obtained from other countries – including Russia - to launch their cyber attacks.
- Remote control of cars and transport vehicles: the CIA has the ability to take over the driving systems of transport vehicles. For instance, the CIA can take over the controls of devices such as the accelerator and brakes of Jeep’s vehicles through their onboard entertainment systems. The CIA had once researched the viability of this technology for the purpose of assassination, by creating a traffic accident.
- Disregard for the law: despite Obama being forced to suggest an investigation into the CIA during his term as President, nothing came of it; and the CIA continues to receive government funding, whilst completely free of government oversight at the same time.
As a matter of fact, no matter how inept the media is in Hong Kong, it is not difficult to find the aforementioned, eyebrow-raising declassified content on the Internet. Yet according to my observation, the netizens in Hong Kong had a more lukewarm reception to this leak than their counterparts in the West. Amongst the times I have looked at my Facebook contacts’ posts, hardly any of them had to do with Vault 7. What could possibly be the reasons behind this indifference? Could it be that Hong Kong netizens’ cold disregard for such shocking information, for instance the ability to remote control vehicle for the purpose of assassinations, is due to the lack of reporting by the mainstream media here?
Having explained the key information on Year Zero to my online friends, whilst they were surprised somewhat, they unanimously agreed that this is not unexpected of the CIA; as for my fellow conspiracy theorists, this leak did not bring anything unexpected at all. Moreover, I have found in their responses that they felt that the CIA in this distant country would not have any real threat to them. Faced with the current situation, it seems that a lot of people are still stuck at the level when Edward Snowden revealed another American intelligence agency NSA’s secret communication monitoring operations. I believe that the majority of Hong Kongers are under the impression that what Wikileaks had recently revealed is merely that the CIA have continued to execute the same or more stringent monitoring of the masses, at the most revealing the methods of malicious attacks. However, there is more to it than that.
In actuality, this release of public documents by Wikileaks clearly stated an intriguing commentary: “the CIA’s hacker arsenal is getting out of hand!” What could that possibly mean? As I mentioned, CIA have developed thousands of different computer viruses, Trojans, malwares and hacker tools that are highly advanced weaponry for cyber warfare; and yet, according to what the information revealed by Wikileaks shows, some of these cyber weaponry and technologies had already been accidentally or deliberately leaked prior to this revelation!
We only need to think but for a moment, when someone in the CIA is developing or employing some kind of cyber weapon or monitoring program, it is absolutely plausible that he or she has the ability to make traceless copies of the program; and since these advanced technologies would definitely be valuable on the black market, there is a huge risk in developing them. According to what the declassified material shows, not only are government organisations susceptible to attacks by independently developed cyber weapons, these weapons in question can instantly fall into the hands of hostile nations, terrorists and even young hackers around the world.
Furthermore, from what the disclosed documents have shown, the CIA could deliberately hand over certain programs for cyber attacks to private organisations. The reason for this is that such cyber weapons are classified material, and should the CIA launch an attack, there is a good possibility that it can be traced to reveal the CIA as the aggressor. In such an event, the agent would not only invite moral condemnations but being accused of revealing state secret as well. Cyber weaponry is unlike other secret armaments such as nuclear weapons, which does not leave behind any traces that can be reversed-engineered upon detonation, instead cyber attack weapons are nothing more than computer programming, with their employment tantamount to revealing its contents, whereupon those involved would be convicted of revealing state secrets and deliberate violation of the law. Therefore, the CIA has always secretly consigned the cyber weaponry technologies to trusted private firms, which would then launch the attack for the CIA. Thus, what could possibly happen when such weapons falls into the hands of private organisations, is not something that I need to make clear.
In conclusion, I believe that the importance of the Year Zero series of documents, during this Vault 7 leak operation, is telling the public that the CIA in this day and age has been the biggest manufacturer of cyber attacks and electronic monitoring weapons, and that not only will their cyber and monitoring weapons affect or targeted at CIA designated personage, there is a chance that these can affect just about every innocent person in the world. For if this CIA hacker technologies and monitoring programs were to fall into the hands of the chinese communist party or the HKsar regime through the method I have described above (if it has not done so already), all of you who are reading this article via your smart phones at this moment, will you still think that Vault 7 is inconsequential?
Original Text in Chinese 中文原文: