Of all the alleged Central Intelligence Agency files dumped online by WikiLeaks this week, the one titled “Faces of the Internet” is by far my favorite, for obvious reasons.
The document, like the cache, does not actually contain top secret hacking tools. There are no viruses, no strains of malware, no fancy “zero-day” exploits available there. Absent, on this page, are details of the code used to penetrate iPhones, to pop Google Android-powered handsets, to hijack Samsung smart TVs. Instead, it displays a bevy of silly emoticons, like this angry guy flipping a table, ╯‵Д′)╯彡┻━┻.
My least favorite part of the release: Its presentation. WikiLeaks loves to create chaos and apply ample PR spin to push its own anti-state agenda during unveilings of this sort. In the spirit of the weekend, I have depicted a caricature of the affair using the CIA’s collection of adorable anthropomorphs as characters. Please indulge the brief comic below.
(╹◡╹)凸 …. Julian Assange, founder and editor of WikiLeaks, hits publish on a leak he has dubbed “Vault 7.” The political agitator issues an accompanying press release, a report on the site’s preliminary “findings,” and a stream of Tweets, all of which contain misleading information.
Σ(||ﾟДﾟ) (ﾟДﾟ) …. The cache of 8,761 documents appears online, surprising and confusing everyone. Some experts, journalists, and others take time to dig in and assess the validity of WikiLeaks’ often questionable claims, while others uncritically broadcast the site’s slant.
۞_۟۞ …. Unfortunately, some people believe the misinformation: that spies have cracked secure chat apps like Signal and WhatsApp, that the CIA indiscriminately spies on everyone, that your smart TV can instantly be transformed into a room bug, and that the CIA routinely frames Russia for its own hacking campaigns. In truth, these are all disingenuous misrepresentations of the truth. (See The Intercept’s excellent debunking of WikiLeaks’ description of the spy program “Umbrage,” and The New York Times‘ analysis of WikiLeaks’ tactics, as antidotes.)
(ﾟДﾟ)y─┛~~ …. Mission accomplished: Assange puffs a cigarette at headquarters. (To be fair, I don’t actually know whether smoking is allowed in the Ecuadorian embassy.)
WikiLeaks’ approach to publishing is textbook coup d’état strategy: shock, misdirect, and usurp. The site acts as a well-oiled machine of information warfare, sowing panic, fear, and paranoia among the populace. Troublingly, America’s adversaries have learned to harness the platform to great effect.
Anyway, thank you, dear readers, for indulging a cartoonish portrayal of a very serious matter. Try not to panic, and have a great weekend.
(ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧ Robert Hackett
Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach me via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.
WikiLeaks vs. CIA. Months after disrupting the U.S. presidential election, Julian Assange has returned to the scene to rain mayhem upon his foes in the U.S. intelligence community. This time his target was the Central Intelligence Agency, thousands of whose alleged files he leaked Tuesday on his anti-secrecy website. The documents described hacking tools, techniques, and procedures used by the spy agency—few surprises for an organization tasked to conduct espionage. (Fortune, Reuters, Reuters, Reuters, Reuters, Reuters, Fortune, Reuters)
What to do about North Korea? The Hermit Kingdom has been increasing the rate of its missile tests, sending signals of aggression to the United States, Japan, and South Korea. China recently attempted to broker a deescalatory deal requiring the U.S. to cancel military exercises in the area and the North to scrap its ballistic tests. Now the Trump administration, which has inherited a secret cyberwar against the country, must decide what approach to take in handling the threat. (New York Times, Fortune)
Home Depot settles data breach. Ransacked three years ago, the retailer has reached an agreement with banks to cover damages they incurred as a result of the credit card heist. As part of the deal, Home Depot said it would pay them $25 million and boost its cybersecurity posture. The breach has cost $179 million to date, a figure that will likely increase with legal fees. (Fortune)
AT&T’s emergency hotline. A network outage at the telecom carrier prevented wireless customers from dialing 911 on Wednesday. The company apparently blamed a software glitch for the service disruption. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said it would investigate what went wrong. Other telecom carriers, such as Verizon and CenturyLink, have been fined millions of dollars for similar outages in the past. (Reuters, Reuters)
Uber blackballs “Greyball.” Joe Sullivan, chief security officer of the ride-hailing firm, said Uber’s program to deny service to suspected law enforcement officers would be canceled this week. He said that, given how the company’s systems were configured, it might take some time to fully implement the new policy. While the legality of the Greyball program is up for debate, even the embattled company appears to recognize that it crossed a line. (Time, Fortune, Reuters)
In other news: Hm…. Isn’t that EXACTLY what a spy would say, Alexa? O_o
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Fortune’s Jeff John Roberts explains why, for a brief moment, it looked as though Bitcoin might go boom.
The digital currency world got long-awaited news from the Security Exchange Commission on Friday—but it wasn’t the news that investors hoped to get. Citing the possibility of fraud, the agency turned down a proposal to alter stock exchange rules to allow the creation of an exchange traded fund (ETF) for bitcoin. The SEC ruling is a blow to bitcoin backers because the creation of the ETF, designed by the Winkelvoss twins who played a role in the creation of Facebook, would have opened the door to institutional investors and made it easier for retail investors to buy bitcoin. (You can read a full background here). Read more on Fortune.com.
5 Home Security Gadgets That Will Keep You Safe, by Chris Morris
Nest Is Turning Up the Security on Its Thermostats, by Rachel King
FBI’s Comey Says Americans Should Not Expect ‘Absolute Privacy’, by Don Reisinger
Facebook Under Fire for How it Handles Child Pornography, by Mathew Ingram
Exclusive: Blackstone-Backed Network for Cyber Risk Launches, by Jeff John Roberts
Major Spammer Accidentally Leaks Data on a Billion People, by Jonathan Vanian
ONE MORE THING
Foiled by body heat. Hackers can use thermal imaging cameras to detect the residual heat left on your smartphone screen after tapping out a passcode, thereby revealing it. Best to use the fingerprint scanner, I guess? (Atlantic)