Dave Gershgorn | Quartz | March 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Most Striking Thing About the WikiLeaks CIA Data Dump Is How Little Most People Cared

GongTo/Shutterstock.com

On March 7, the US awoke to a fresh cache of internal CIA documents posted on WikiLeaks. They detail the spy organization’s playbook for cracking digital communications. WikiLeaks claims to have large portions of the CIA’s hacking arsenal in a series called Vault 7 (though the first information dump didn’t contain any of the code used to actually crack modern smartphones and internet-connected devices).

These documents, if legitimate, show exactly how a spy agency uses a technologically saturated culture to its own ends. As such they’re a neat foil to the National Security Agency secrets unveiled by Edward Snowden in 2013. As NPR writes, “other leaks featured program overviews; these are developer notes.” Many of the CIA documents outlined “zero-day exploits”—undetected security loopholes—in software made by companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung.

Ironically, though, the Vault 7 dump also shows just how strong modern encryption and privacy measures are. While Snowden revealed that telcos handed over data about their customers to the NSA in bulk, there is no sign in the Vault 7 documents that the CIA can hack into encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp or Signal and use that to carry out mass surveillance. To see what’s on your phone, the agency must get access to the phone itself. Zeynep Tufekci, writing in the New York Times, said security researchers she interviewed saw “no big surprises or unexpected wizardry.”

There’s also one other big difference between now and 2013. Snowden’s NSA revelations sent shockwaves around the world. Despite WikiLeaks’ best efforts at theatrics—distributing an encrypted folder and tweeting the password “SplinterItIntoAThousandPiecesAndScatterItIntoTheWinds”—the Vault 7 leak has elicited little more than a shrug from the media and the public, even if the spooks are seriously worried. Maybe it’s because we already assume the government can listen to everything.

Comments
JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.