Orwell's 'Big Brother' may now be watching you... in CIA's digital avatar
In 1949 George Orwell created the fictional character and symbol "Big Brother" in his masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the novel, Orwell described a society where every citizen is under perennial surveillance by government authorities and constantly reminded of this by the slogan "Big Brother is watching you".
Now, sixty-eight years after Orwell's frightening imaginary rendezvous into the future, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) seems to be have created a real-life 'big brother' and surveillance state, using mankind's spectacular advances in information & communications technology (ICT.)
According to the latest tranche of 9,000 classified CIA documents released by WikiLeaks, the American spy agency has been using people's televisions as listening devices, bypassing popular encryption apps, and even controlling their cars. WikiLeaks claimed that a vast trove of CIA documents, hacking tools and code representing "the majority of its hacking arsenal" were leaked within the cyber security community — and that it had received, and released, a part of them.
"This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA," it said, warning of a risk of cyber-weapons proliferation.
These hacking tools have targeted iPhones, Android systems such as the personal phone reportedly still used by President Donald Trump, popular Microsoft software, and Samsung smart TVs, which can be transformed into covert microphones.
The CIA has also examined hacking into the electronic control systems on cars and trucks, potentially enabling it to control them remotely. By infecting and effectively taking over the software of smartphones, the CIA can get around the encryption technologies of popular apps like WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Weibo, and Confide by collecting communications before they are encrypted.
Neither the CIA nor the White House would say if the documents are genuine. If corroborated, the leak could represent a huge new embarrassment to US intelligence, adding to Edward Snowden's 2013 expose of National Security Agency spying on Americans' communications, and the arrest last year of an NSA official for removing massive amounts of top-secret material to his home over 20 years.
WikiLeaks said the data shows that the CIA is now rivalling the NSA, the US government's main electronic spying body, in cyber warfare, but with less oversight. The archive shows the CIA exploiting weaknesses it discovers in hardware and software systems, including those made by US companies, without letting anyone know about the flaws in question. The CIA has produced more than 1,000 malware systems — viruses, trojans and other software that can infiltrate and take control of personal electronics, WikiLeaks noted.
Devin Nunes, chairman of the House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee, said the disclosures "appear to be very, very serious. We are very concerned."