It’s impossible to keep up with the nonstop news coverage and multiple storylines around the recent Wikileaks CIA dump. The initial Vault 7 data drop led to Assange’s press conference about “helping” private companies patch vulnerabilities, all while fear started to spread around the intelligence community listening in to our internet-connected Samsung TVs and Apple products at home, and Cisco disclosing that its routers and Internet switches had been hacked.
Most recently, CIA Director Mike Pompeo criticized WikiLeaks in his first public address since being confirmed, calling the organization a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” Pompeo makes an undeniable point about the far-reaching consequences of a leak such as this one — which, speaking from an intelligence perspective, is likely the most frightening yet.
The truth of the matter is that the breach of the CIA’s attack tools not only placed the U.S. at a deficit in our offensive cyber capabilities, it has threatened the world’s most critical businesses, organizations and national security peace of mind. To echo Pompeo’s statements, we are now all more vulnerable.
If WikiLeaks releases details on the vulnerabilities, attackers of all stripes will soon have the ability to weaponize the CIA’s tools — not just nation states with advanced cyber programs like China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, but anyone with adequate internet access and some technical knowhow.
This isn’t just a dump of information by a disgruntled employee that saw the new Snowden movie and thought they could be a hero. It appears to be a calculated breach by a spy.
Cyber espionage has been the new normal for years
There are no hackers anymore — now it’s all about the spies we in the intelligence and security communities are trying to stop. The “insiders” have known this for some time, but it’s becoming more apparent to the business community and now individuals. Numerous criminal and espionage attacks plague computer systems in all industries, public and private.
For the CIA breach, it’s imperative for the FBI to determine how it occurred. We hope that the breach was a single employee or contractor that acted out of ‘hacktivism.’ More concerning is the thought that a foreign intelligence service could have recruited an insider traitor to extract the hacking tools. The recent DOJ indictment around the Yahoo breach shines a light on Russia’s recruiting tactics.
The intelligence community may have a serious trusted insider problem. There’s a fine line between whistleblowing and leaking information that directly aids foreign intelligence services. Leaks of classified information can be incredibly harmful — especially when they reach the wrong hands.