Posted on September 18, 2017 at 10:46 AM
New information has come to light which exposed the CIA routinely hacking into private Wi-Fi routers to monitor online activity.
Old documents, recently unearthed by Wikileaks, has confirmed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been able to hack into the public’s Wi-Fi routers in order to gain access to information regarding their internet activity. The CIA utilized private residence-based routers from 10 different major US manufacturers including Linksys, DLink, and Belkin.
The firmware, under codename “CherryBlossom” is currently running on an estimated 25 router models, with the ability to run on several more, if certain modifications are made to the router.
According to the ten-year-old document, CherryBlossom provides the CIA a method of monitoring online activity, and if necessary, gives them a way to perform software exploits on individuals of interest. The main focus of CherryBlossom, according to this document, is to compromise wireless network devices such as Wi-Fi routers in order to monitor certain targets and to perform software exploits.
In addition to this, the document confirms that routers with weak passwords are easily hacked. The most compliable router with the CIA’s firmware has been confirmed to be the DLink DIR-130 model as well as the Linksys WRT300N model.
Once a router has been hacked and the firmware has been installed on the device, the device communicates to a CIA controlled server, that is referred to as beacons. The server has been codenamed “CherryTree”.
After the firmware is installed and is communicating to the CIA server, the CIA is able to analyse the router’s status, as well as viewing its web traffic. This is done by using an online user interface codenamed “CherryWeb”. Once a router is hacked, it can be assigned a “mission” via the CIA’s server. The mission usually targets a specific laptop or phone inside the residence using sensitive information like IP address, email address, user names on chat platforms, and MAC addresses.
The specific document is dated 2007, and has only recently been released by Wikileaks. This would mean that this practice has been ongoing for a decade now without public knowledge, debate, or consent.
Most people have become used to surveillance to a certain extent, not only by the government, but also by big corporations and retailers to monitor our consuming habits. But knowing that this surveillance has been done within your private residence and without your knowledge and consent, constitutes to many as a major violation of every American citizen’s fourth amendment rights.
Considering the massive advancements being made in the tech world, it seems likely that corporations, retailers, and governmental agencies has no intention of stopping these violations. For example, a new Smart TV by company Vizio, is able to track any user’s viewing habits, and then shares that information with third parties. This feature is known as “Smart Interactivity”. To date, Vizio has manufactured over ten million devices, which means that millions of American citizens are being monitored daily, without their knowledge or consent.
In defence of their latest feature, Vizio stated that the information shared with selected third parties are strictly non-personal. The information is shared in order to allow companies to analyse viewing habits and implement this information in their decision making regarding their content production.
Vizio is not the only company with this feature. Even bigger companies like LG and Samsung has incorporated a similar feature to their Smart TVs, although admittedly their features are less invasive. Vizio collects everything you’re watching, as well as smaller details such as how you’re watching it, as well as what time of the day you watch it. It goes even further still by analysing viewing patterns and linking it to the relevant IP addresses. While this practice is strictly illegal, Vizio maintains that the laws in question do not apply to them.
These are only some of the many ways in which American citizens’ fourth amendment rights are being violated every day without them even knowing about it. While it may seem harmless to some, and in the case of CIA monitoring even in the interest of public security, one has to wonder how these fourth amendment rights violations might increase with the further advancement of technology.