WikiLeaks claims the CIA hacked into Samsung smart TVs and used them as secret microphones

Rob Price
Samsung

Flickr/Kārlis Dambrāns

LONDON — WikiLeaks has published a trove of documents it says detail the inner workings of the CIA's hacking programs — and among them is the claim that the US spy agency is able to hack into Samsung smart TVs and use them as covert microphones.

The alleged program, called "Weeping Angel," is said to have been developed in partnership with MI5, the British spy agency, and records using the device's microphone when it is seemingly switched off.

"After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a 'Fake-Off' mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on," the press release accompanying the release from WikiLeaks said. "In 'Fake-Off' mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server."

A Samsung representative did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

If legitimate, the trove of documents published Tuesday would offer an unparalleled window into the inner workings of a US intelligence agency. The files discuss everything from the CIA's use of "zero days" (undisclosed software vulnerabilities) to attack smartphones to how the CIA avoids being identified in forensic investigations, WikiLeaks says.

Back in 2015, Samsung warned its users of the potential privacy implications that come with owning a smart TV with built-in microphones. "Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition," its privacy policy said.

Business Insider was not able to immediately verify the authenticity of the WikiLeaks documents.

WikiLeaks has been a thorn in the side of Western governments for years, and it reached new levels of publicity with the publication of hacked emails from the US Democratic National Committee in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. US intelligence agencies have accused Russia of being behind the hacking.

In its press release, WikiLeaks said a huge collection of hacking tools and documents had been circulating among "former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive."

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