WikiLeaks has released the latest batch of documents in its Vault 7 series of documents related to the CIA’s espionage programs. The latest release, dubbed ‘Dark Matter,’ reveals the specific techniques used to target Apple products.
The release discloses the alleged details of methods employed by the CIA to compromise devices manufactured by Apple including the iPhone and Macbook Air.
In a statement from WikiLeaks, the whistleblower group said Thursday’s ‘Dark Matter’ leak includes details of the ‘Sonic Screwdriver’ project, described by the CIA as a “mechanism for executing code on peripheral devices while a Mac laptop or desktop is booting.”
Techniques named in the release detail methods that could allow devices to be compromised between the manufacturing line and the end user or by a CIA asset in close proximity to a target.
The leak came just prior to WikiLeaks latest press briefing which was scheduled to take place at 10am ET – it has since been delayed. The last Vault 7 press conference was cancelled after Julian Assange claimed their streaming services were being attacked.
The projects, developed by the CIA’s Embedded Development Branch (EDB), attack Apple’s firmware meaning that any infections are persistent regardless of efforts to remove them, including if the operating system is reinstalled.
WikiLeaks said this allows an attacker to boot its attack software from a USB stick on to a device even when a firmware password is enabled on the device, meaning the read-only memory of a device can be modified using ‘Sonic Screwdriver’.
The infector is stored in the Apple Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter, claim WikiLeaks.
The latest leak consists of five documents, ‘Sonic Screwdriver’, ‘DerStarke v1.4’, DetStarke v1.4 RC1 – IVVRR CHecklist’, ‘Triton v1.3’ and DarkSeaSkies v1.0 – URDSee more’.
Within the released tranche is a tool known as NightSkies, which allows the CIA to infiltrate factory fresh iPhones and track and control them remotely, granting “full remote command and control,” to the CIA.
NightSkies allows the CIA to take files from iPhones, including details from the owner’s phonebook, text messages and call logs.
The revelation that the CIA is physically infiltrating factory fresh phones suggests it has accessed an organization’s supply chain, meaning they may be intercepting the phones as they are shipped to targets, with CIA agents or assets tampering with suspects’ phones before they have even been received.
Also included in the documents are details about a number of other tools employed by the CIA to infiltrate Apple products, affording the CIA a variety of command and control capabilities.
DarkSeaSkies is an implant that is found in the firmware of an Apple MacBook Air that runs in the background and allows the CIA command and control capabilities over a targeted device . A 2009 ‘user requirements’ document on DarkSeaSkies details how assets should install DarkSeaSkies.
The second data dump comes two weeks after Assange said WikiLeaks will give tech companies exclusive access to leaked information they obtained from the CIA in the first part of ‘Vault 7’, known as ‘Zero Days’.