WikiLeaks has released the latest batch of documents in its Vault 7 series of documents related to the CIA’s espionage programs. The latest release, dubbed ‘Dark Matter,’ reveals the specific techniques used to target Apple products.The release discloses the alleged details of methods employed by the CIA to compromise devices manufactured by Apple including the iPhone and Macbook Air.
In a statement from WikiLeaks, the whistleblower group said Thursday's ‘Dark Matter’ leak includes details of the ‘Sonic Screwdriver’ project, described by the CIA as a "mechanism for executing code on peripheral devices while a Mac laptop or desktop is booting."
Techniques named in the release detail methods that could allow devices to be compromised between the manufacturing line and the end user or by a CIA asset in close proximity to a target.
WikiLeaks said this allows an attacker to boot its attack software from a USB stick on to a device even when a firmware password is enabled on the device, meaning the read-only memory of a device can be modified using ‘Sonic Screwdriver’.
The infector is stored in the Apple Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter, claim WikiLeaks.
The latest leak consists of five documents, ‘Sonic Screwdriver’, ‘DerStarke v1.4’, DetStarke v1.4 RC1 - IVVRR CHecklist’, ‘Triton v1.3’ and DarkSeaSkies v1.0 - URDSee more’.
Julian Assange © Axel Schmidt / Reuters
Within the released tranche is a tool known as NightSkies, which allows the CIA to infiltrate factory fresh iPhones and track and control them remotely, granting “full remote command and control,” to the CIA.
NightSkies allows the CIA to take files from iPhones, including details from the owner’s phonebook, text messages and call logs.
The revelation that the CIA is physically infiltrating factory fresh phones suggests it has accessed an organization's supply chain, meaning they may be intercepting the phones as they are shipped to targets, with CIA agents or assets tampering with suspects’ phones before they have even been received.
Also included in the documents are details about a number of other tools employed by the CIA to infiltrate Apple products, affording the CIA a variety of command and control capabilities.
DarkSeaSkies is an implant that is found in the firmware of an Apple MacBook Air that runs in the background and allows the CIA command and control capabilities over a targeted device . A 2009 ‘user requirements’ document on DarkSeaSkies details how assets should install DarkSeaSkies.
The second data dump comes two weeks after Assange said WikiLeaks will give tech companies exclusive access to leaked information they obtained from the CIA in the first part of ‘Vault 7’, known as ‘Zero Days’.
Assange said WikiLeaks did not publish all details of the hacking techniques revealed in the leaks as it would result in both the “good guys” and the “bad guys” getting them at the same time.WikiLeaks publishes 'entire hacking capacity of the CIA' https://t.co/IadC1k3CSx … pic.twitter.com/HuqufdztIV— Errymath (@errymath)
The second release in the series details the techniques that WikiLeaks claims are employed by CIA assets to compromise Apple devices between the manufacturing line and the end user.
On the alleged demands, Assange said a standard industry 90-day timeframe was given to tech companies for them to provide encryption keys to WikiLeaks in order for them to communicate details of the exploits.
Assange said Microsoft contacted WikiLeaks on March 20 without “agreeing to the standard terms.” On the same day, Google also contacted the whistleblower group, refusing to agree to WikiLeaks’ terms, which Assange claims are standard, instead providing their own terms and a PGP-encrypted email.
He did not give details on Microsoft and Google's requested terms but alluded to their “revolving door” relationship with military and security contractors as reasons for their reluctance.
Assange said any fixes required by tech companies should take a few weeks and that the 90 day timeframe is sufficient. He added that if a company contacted them requesting more time, they’d be open to discussion.
#Julain_Assange: The #CIA has become a giant #hacker #spy agency! We Only published 1% of #Vault7 @wikileaks @YosriFouda @dw_arabic pic.twitter.com/0yopB6VUpN— السلطة الخامسة (@dw_Sulta5) March 23, 2017
After WikiLeaks #Vault7 Google At Home becomes super defensive and won't tell you directly what the CIA is https://t.co/7g9hrmvGGM— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 23, 2017
#DarkMatter: Apple’s fix for CIA hacks disputed by WikiLeaks
© Lucy Nicholson/ / Reuters
Following WikiLeaks’ latest revelation that the CIA has been infiltrating Apple products for years, the technology giant released a statement saying all vulnerabilities have since been fixed, prompting WikiLeaks and others to dispute the claim.“We have preliminarily assessed the WikiLeaks disclosures from this morning. Based on our initial analysis, the alleged iPhone vulnerability affected iPhone 3G only and was fixed in 2009 when iPhone 3GS was released,” Apple said in a statement. “Additionally, our preliminary assessment shows the alleged Mac vulnerabilities were previously fixed in all Macs launched after 2013.”
Apple was referring to CIA tools such as NightSkies, DarkSeaSkies, Triton and Sonic Screwdriver used to infiltrate the iPhone, MacBooks and desktops.
“Apple's claim that it has ‘fixed’ all ‘vulnerabilities’ described in DARKMATTER is duplicitous,” WikiLeaks tweeted in response. “EFI [Extensible Firmware Interface] is a systemic problem, not a zero-day [vulnerability in software or hardware that can be exploited to hack systems and is often later patched.]”
EFI loads a computer’s operating system and is behind the boot sequence of a computer.
“If you change something before that [booting], you’re controlling everything,” firmware hacker Karsten Nohl told Wired. “It becomes part of your computer. There’s no way of knowing that it’s there, and also hardly any way to get rid of it.”
Apple's claim that it has "fixed" all "vulnerabilities" described in DARKMATTER is duplicitous. EFI is a systemic problem, not a zero-day.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 24, 2017
“Darkmatter+Triton can be remotely installed. CIA has 2016 version: DerStake2.0. EFI is not fixable ‘vulnerability’,” WikiLeaks said.Darkmatter+Triton can be remotely installed— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 24, 2017
CIA has 2016 version: DerStake2.0
EFI is not fixable "vulnerability" https://t.co/UgrCQ1eAO3
WikiLeaks’ Dark Matter release Thursday explained that while many of the documents are from up to 2013, “other Vault 7 documents show that as of 2016 the CIA continues to rely on and update these systems and is working on the production of DerStarke2.0.”
Whether Apple has fixed all the vulnerabilities featured in Dark Matter, the documents show CIA’s capabilities and suggest it has likely continued to attempt to infiltrate newer Apple products.
The company responded to the first batch of documents released by WikiLeaks as part of its massive #Vault7 earlier this month. It said “many” of the exploits featured in the documents had already been patched in the latest iOS update and that it was working to “rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities.”