CIA Wikileaks Latest Front in US/Russia Cyberwar by Austen D. Givens
Wikileaks recently published what appears to be a trove of secret documents from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The New York Times reports that the documents describe a variety of tools and methods used by the CIA to break into computing devices, including some measures that bypass supposedly robust security features like encrypted messaging.
Wikileaks claims that the release of the documents is designed to, in its words, “initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.” But this whistleblower-esque language is a flimsy veneer for the leak’s true intent: to damage severely the national security interests of the United States.
By revealing what are known in the intelligence business as “sources and methods,” Wikileaks has compromised permanently the CIA’s ability to collect intelligence using the tools and techniques described in the documents that it published. The damage from this leak is therefore quite literally incalculable.
Moreover, the notion that this leak could help to spark a public discussion about the use of cyberweapons is a red herring. That discussion has already been underway for years in academic journals and highbrow magazines. (For example, see here, here, here, here, and here.)
So, whodunit? My money is on a nation-state, not a non-state actor. Given the beyond-coincidental links between Wikileaks and the Kremlin, I’d bet on Moscow. And, specifically, a group known as APT 28, which appears to be an arm of the Russian intelligence services.
Let’s be clear about this: Russia and the United States are engaged in a cyberwar against one another. And the Wikileaks CIA document dump is just the latest tactical victory for Moscow, which can also claim proudly that it helped to tip the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election in favor of its preferred candidate.
Austen D. Givens is Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity at Utica College.