CIA can apparently hack your Samsung smart TV and spy on you
WikiLeaks has leaked a new trove of documents that are said to reveal some of the methods that the CIA uses to hack electronic devices. The documents describe how the US Central Intelligence Agency and its allied agencies are able to bypass encryption of apps like WhatsApp and Signal by breaking into an Android device and swooping data before encryption is even applied.
The documents also mention a program called “Weeping Angel.” It’s said to be a spying tool created by the CIA and UK’s MI5 intelligence agency. Weeping Angel enables it to hack a Samsung smart TV – particularly the F8000 series – so even though it might appear off to the user the agency can tap into the TV’s microphone and record conversations.
The documents reveal that both agencies held a joint workshop back in 2014 to improve the Weeping Angel hack that specifically targeted F8000 series TVs in 2013. They developed a “Fake-Off” mode in order to trick users into thinking that their TV was off by simply turning off the front LEDs and the screen but the microphone would then be used to record conversations.
This hack only worked on some firmware versions of the same TV, it was tested by the agencies on TVs running firmware versions 1111, 1112 and 1116. They didn’t come up with a way to hack firmware version 1118 and up, going by what’s mentioned in the documents. The CIA was working on a method to prevent the hacked TVs from updating themselves automatically which would patch the vulnerability. There’s nothing in the documents to suggest that the CIA tried hacking newer Samsung smart TV models or even TVs from other manufacturers.
This is obviously something that doesn’t inspire confidence in the security of smart TVs. Samsung already caught a lot of flak when it revealed in 2015 that some of its smart TVs were listening in on conversations. Samsung has not yet commented on this development.