Wikileaks mastermind Julian Assange says he wants to help tech companies block the CIA’s hacking techniques.
“We have decided to work with them, to give them some exclusive access to some of the technical details we have, so that fixes can be pushed out,” he said during a Facebook Live news conference on Thursday.
Assange said tech companies have asked for more details about CIA hacking methods since Wikileaks released 8,761 apparently real documents on Tuesday that exposed the power of the agency’s hacking operations. The documents, allegedly part one in a series of document dumps to come, said the CIA has long been in a bureaucratic battle with the NSA. Tired of being beholden to NSA intelligence, the CIA built up its own hugely powerful hacking unit, which has since found ways around encrypted chat apps such as Signal and WhatsApp, devised ways to turn smart TVs into covert microphones, and has tried to figure out how to hack cars.
Apple and Google have already said that many (obviously not the same as all) of the revealed holes in their software were fixed by the time the documents appeared online. Wikileaks didn’t publish material showing exactly how a sophisticated hacker might exploit any software soft spots, but they might not have to reveal more to companies such as Apple and Google for those companies to take advantage of the revelations.
According to Electronic Frontier Foundation General Counsel Kurt Opsahl, “It’s possible that just by looking at all the documents already available, they at least know where to start looking” for the holes in the software that need to be patched.
Wikileaks has a history of publishing documents that governments would rather not have in the open, though lost much of its credibility during the 2016 presidential election in the United States after its leaks and Twitter persona seemed to be aimed at electing President Donald Trump over rival Hillary Clinton.
The CIA certainly knows that history, and has reminded everyone of it in the wake of the document leaks.
“As we’ve said previously, Julian Assange is not exactly a bastion of truth and integrity,” said CIA spokesperson Jonathan Liu. “Despite the efforts of Assange and his ilk, CIA continues to aggressively collect foreign intelligence overseas to protect America from terrorists, hostile nation states and other adversaries.”
Whether tech companies want to work with such an organization remains to be seen. Instead, these companies and the government may find it’s easier to work together to fix these loopholes. Now that the CIA’s techniques aren’t solely in the possession of the agency, Opsahl suggested it might be in the interest of both parties to fix any holes that could be exploited by other third parties.