U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials told Reuters on Wednesday that government contractors were probably the culprits in security breaches that resulted in the release of thousands of pages of documents to WikiLeaks describing the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) use of hacking tools.
Anonymous sources told Reuters that intelligence agencies have known about the security breach since the end of last year.
“According to the documents, CIA hackers could get into Apple Inc. iPhones, devices running Google’s Android software, and other gadgets in order to capture text and voice messages before they were encrypted with sophisticated software,” the sources stated.
On Wednesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer underlined the president’s concern about the CIA security breach that led to the latest massive WikiLeaks release. “Anybody who leaks classified information will be held to the highest degree of law,” he said.
The report claimed that published documents detailing CIA hacking techniques used between 2013 and 2016 were authentic.
According to one source knowledgeable about the investigation: “Companies that are contractors for the CIA have been checking to see which of their employees had access to the material that WikiLeaks published, and then going over their computer logs, emails and other communications for any evidence of who might be responsible.”
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According to a statement made on Tuesday by WikiLeaks itself, the CIA had “lost control” of an archive of hacking methods. The documents were apparently circulated “among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”
No comment about the documents’ authenticity was forthcoming from the CIA. However, the agency did put out a statement saying that its mission to collect foreign intelligence abroad was “to protect America from terrorists, hostile nation states, and other adversaries” and to be “innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defense in protecting this country from enemies abroad.”
The CIA is legally prohibited from conducting surveillance inside the United States; the agency further stated that it “does not do so.”
Intelligence committees within the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives are either in the process of or are expected to open inquiries into the CIA breach, according to the report.
“I think we really need to take a look at the contractor portion of the employee workforce because you have to be loyal to America to work for an intelligence agency, otherwise don’t do it,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a Democrat on the intelligence committee.
Officials reportedly said that “there is no evidence that Russian intelligence agencies tried to exploit any of the leaked material before it was published.”
In fact, the WikiLeaks material could actually “lead to closer cooperation between European intelligence agencies and U.S. counterparts, which share concerns about Russian intelligence operations,” according to one official.
Federal budget constraints were blamed for the reason so many contractors had access to the highly sensitive information, according to one source, which revealed that “U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to hire additional permanent staff needed to keep pace with technological advances such as the ‘internet of things’ that connects cars, home security and heating systems and other devices to computer networks, or to pay salaries competitive with the private sector.”
It was suggested by the chief federal prosecutor’s office on Wednesday that the CIA was running a hacking operation from its U.S. consulate in Frankfurt. “We will initiate an investigation if we see evidence of concrete criminal acts or specific perpetrators,” said a spokesman.
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