Federal Criminal Investigation Launched Into WikiLeaks Publication Of CIA Documents

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — In what could potentially be the largest leak of CIA documents in history, WikiLeaks claims the agency’s software can use every day objects to spy on people worldwide.

A federal criminal investigation is being opened into the publication of these documents, CBS News learned Wednesday.

The anti-secrecy group said it obtained thousands of files, hundreds of millions of lines of code from the CIA’s massive hacking operation.

“The idea that we are having these ongoing disclosures of national security and classified information should be something that everyone is outraged in this country,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday. “This is the kind of disclosure that undermines our country, our security and our well-being.”

“This was a willful act of putting this material together,” former acting CIA Director Michael Morrell said.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden defended the spy agency’s programs on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

“There are some bad people in the world that have Samsung TVs,” Hayden said. “This is a wonderful capability. You give the intelligence community $53 billion a year, you ought to get something for your money.”

WikiLeaks said the documents show the CIA’s hackers have developed malware to be able to hack into almost any device people use and can remotely control iPhones, iPads, Android devices, taking video from their cameras and listening with their microphones.

“We should be worried if they’re being used against non-intelligence targets, we should be worried if they’re being used against Americans,” cybersecurity expert Ross Schulman told CNN.

Apple said many of the security vulnerabilities disclosed by WikiLeaks have already been fixed.

The company said its initial analysis shows that its latest version of the iOS system software for iPhones and iPads fixes many of those flaws. That version came out in January, well before the latest WikiLeaks release.

Apple said it will “continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities” and is encouraging its users to download the latest version of iOS for the most recent security updates.

Google hasn’t commented yet on similar vulnerabilities with its Android system.

WikiLeaks says there’s one CIA hacking operation called “Weeping Angel” that can even tap into an enemy’s Samsung smart TV.

“These leaks are incredibly damaging to the ability of our intelligence people to do the job that they’re supposed to do,” former CIA Director Leon Panetta told CNN.

According to WikiLeaks, the CIA explored the possibility of hacking into the software of modern cars with potentially deadly results.

“This can let you do a whole lot of things from playing the music, to taking control of the car entirely and crashing it if you want to assassinate somebody,” Schulman said.

The documents released by WikiLeaks have not been authenticated by independent experts and the CIA says it won’t confirm their existence.

One former CIA analyst says if this claim is true WikiLeaks has dealt a significant blow to U.S. national security.

“Every time a place like WikiLeaks blows our ops, it means that the bad guys evolve and they use counter-measures to defeat the abilities of the United States to spy on them,” Aki Peritz said.

One of the biggest concerns for the federal government is if WikiLeaks publishes critical computer code on how operations are conducted then other hackers could take that code and cause havoc worldwide.

Earlier this year, the U.S. intelligence community accused WikiLeaks of being a propaganda arm of the Russian government after it released stolen hacked Democratic party emails.

Candidate Donald Trump praised the group on the campaign trail, saying, “WikiLeaks! I love WikiLeaks!” But the White House now says that was about hacks of the chair of the Clinton campaign, John Podesta.

“There is a big difference between disclosing John Podesta’s Gmail accounts… and the leaking of classified information. There is a massive, massive difference between those two things,” Spicer said.

Experts say people should keep their devices updated with the latest versions of their operating systems and run anti-virus software.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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