Two ways to respond to the recent CIA and Vault7 Wikileaks exposures

In case you’ve been living in a cave without electricity for a few days, on March 7th, 2017, WikiLeaks leaked a collection of almost 9,000 documents allegedly from the CIA related to a project known as Vault7.  The CIA issued an official response on its website the following day.

Assuming the exposed documents actually do originate from the CIA, according to the NY Times, the document dump contains voluminous details on:

  • Wi-Fi networks
  • How to crash targeted computers
  • How to steal passwords using the autosuggestion feature built into IE

The Vault 7 collection also purportedly includes slides that suggest the CIA was able to leverage Samsung Smart TV’s to covertly record conversations even when the display and LED lights were off.

Let’s just say the stuff contained in the CIA leak is terrifying and it was partially what prompted me to post a few practical steps you can take to respond to this recent revelation.

But before we get started I just wanted to take a moment to say that the media often has a propensity to sensationalize things like this.  When everyone is in a frenzy it’s easy to believe almost every bit of scary intel you hear about the Wikileak documents.  Your best bet is to view the media’s comments with a critical eye, don’t overreact and instead take basic security precautions like the ones I’ll share now.

Can the CIA see your stuff?

Maybe, maybe not.  I don’t know but that misses the point.

To be honest you are asking the wrong question.  If you’re not a terrorist, evil foreign diplomat, sex trafficking drug lord or some other bad person doing bad things using technology then you shouldn’t worry about the CIA hacking into your stuff.

I mean just think about it.

Why would the CIA target you?

Of all people – you?

Unless you’re up to no good there’s really nothing to worry about and if you are doing bad illegal things online then the CIA should target and find you (and I hope they do!)

But kidding aside, if you are truly paranoid – here are a few things you can do to protect yourself online:

1 Turn off your devices when not in use

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  • Disable Wi-Fi when you’re not surfing the web.
  • Unplug your smart TV when you’re done watching “Designated Survivor” (man I love that show).
  • Place some masking tape over your webcam when it’s not in use

If you don’t have a smart TV or webcam then well you’re even safer!

The key here is to turn it off when you’re done.  Follow that rule of thumb and you’ll be fine.

2 Stay patched up

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One of the easiest and quickest ways to get your machine hacked is by using legacy software.

No one, I repeat no one should be using Windows XP by now.  You should already know that.  If you are – shame on you! You should have upgraded to Windows 10 – it’s way more secure and it’s time to get out of the stone ages and on track with 2017.

Most “hacks” are made possible by lazy or uniformed users who don’t install the latest updates or install software from untrusted sources.

For example, never download common applications from any site that isn’t the manufacturer’s website.

  • Don’t download Mozilla Firefox from download.com.
  • Don’t downloaded pirated software or torrents.

Just don’t do it.

Stay safe, stay smart and pay attention.  Keeping your machine current on updates is one of the easiest ways to prevent your system from being hacked.

Conclusion

The only people that should fear being targeted by the CIA are people who need to be targeted by the CIA!

Nation-state actors, terrorists and anyone threatening the national security of the U.S. should worry about being tracked and hacked because that’s what the CIA is here for.  For the ordinary home users like you and me we should be more worried about clicking phishing links or downloading malware from an unsavory site.

So stay patched up, use common sense and always take the media’s articles with a grain of salt.  Whenever you feel a deep sense of surprise or shock in your gut, always hold that feeling in abeyance and ask yourself:

Why do I feel this way?

Put your judgement on the table while you struggle to figure out what’s going on because most (not all) but most of the time when all the facts are in you may realize it wasn’t as serious or as relevant to you as you thought.

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