Following WikiLeaks revelation of CIA bugging of phones, TV, PPCs, there are also a number of simple steps that ordinary people can take to protect themselves, without going off-grid.
- Update your phone
The agency was able to remotely control and monitor phone activity, both on Android and iOS, according to the WikiLeaks documents. Both Apple and Google have said that they have addresses ‘many’ of the vulnerabilities allegedly exploited by the CIA.
The best thing users can do is update to the latest available version of their phone’s operating system, as this provides the highest level of protection. Apple and Google have pledged to fix any remaining flaws, so you can expect more software updates to become available in the near future.
- Check your TV
‘Weeping Angel’ is one of the most chilling revelations of them all, allowing the CIA to turn smart TVs into covert microphones, according to WikiLeaks. The attack, developed alongside the MI5, enabled agents to infiltrate TVs and make them appear to be turned off.
In this ‘Fake Off’ state, they could listen in on everything that people were saying around them, and send the recordings to a CIA server over a web connection.
Only a select group of Samsung models are reported to be vulnerable to the hack. These are: UNES8000F, E8000GF plasma, UNES7550F, UNF8000 series, F8500 plasma, UNF7500 series and UNF7000 series. Even then, they have to be running old firmware, such as versions 1111, 1112 or 1116.
It’s also understood that a CIA agent would have had to have physical access to a TV in order to carry out the Weeping Angel hack, but you can ensure it’s not been tampered with by switching your set off and checking the back of it for a blue LED.
You can see which firmware version your TV is running by going to the main menu, choosing support and then software update. From here, you can update to the secure version 1118.
- Stop using Internet Explorer
A short section in the Vault 7 leaks says that the CIA used a “very simple technique” to steal passwords saved by Internet Explorer
Microsoft ended support for Internet Explorer 8, 9 and 10 over a year ago, meaning that only version 11 receives security updates from the company. The browser has no future though, with IE11 confirmed as the final iteration, and Microsoft itself recommends that users choose alternatives.
Edge is the default browser on the latest versions of Windows, with Chrome and Firefox its main competitors, and all three are better to use than Internet Explorer. What’s more, Google says that Chrome has already fixed most of the vulnerabilities the CIA was allegedly capable of taking advantage of.
- Don’t rely on antivirus
The Vault 7 documents say that antivirus programs were hoodwinked by the CIA which used a variety of techniques and tricks to bypass them. Often seen as the ultimate safety net by consumers, even they can’t stand up to the CIA.
“CIA hackers developed successful attacks against most well known anti-virus programs,” according to WikiLeaks.
21 separate security products are listed in the leak, including: Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, ClamAV, Comodo, DaRT, ESET, F-Secure, GDATA, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, McAfee, Microsoft Security Essentials, Norton, Panda, Rising, Symantec, Trend Micro, Zemana Antilogger and Zone Alarm.
- Get serious about your data
This is general good practice, but it’s more relevant than ever in the wake of the Vault 7 leaks. Take extra care with your data, only downloading the apps you really need to use.