Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said Tuesday the cache of 8,700 alleged CIA files released by WikiLeaks seemed to be legitimate — and “genuinely a big deal.” The watchdog organization claimed the classified documents, called “Vault 7,” came from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence.
“Still working through the publication, but what @Wikileaks has here is genuinely a big deal. Looks authentic,” Snowden said on his Twitter.
Snowden’s thoughts on cybersecurity were sure to make waves, given his position in the intelligence community. The ex-Booz Allen Hamilton employee leaked information in 2013 that showed the NSA was, in fact, spying on Americans’ iOS and Android smartphones and disclosed the existence of PRISM, a program the NSA used to access servers of U.S. technology companies directly.
WikiLeaks said Tuesday’s hacks, which violated the Vulnerability Equities Process former President Barack Obama passed in 2014, should be taken seriously. “Serious vulnerabilities not disclosed to the manufacturers places huge swathes of the population and critical infrastructure at risk to foreign intelligence or cyber criminals who independently discover or hear rumors of the vulnerability,” it wrote in a news release. “If the CIA can discover such vulnerabilities so can others.”
The hacking abilities and programs apparently occurred between 2013 and 2016, where a variety of devices, including Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows and Samsung’s TVs, became microphones known as zero day exploits.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the documents were authentic, but CIA spokesman Jonathan Liu told the Associated Press the agency does “not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.”
Snowden tweeted that the “Program & office names, such as the JQJ (IOC) crypt series,” were what made him believe the authenticity of the documents. “Only a cleared insider could know them,” he added.
Snowden, who was granted asylum, has been residing in Russia since he left the U.S. in 2013 for exposing the NSA surveillance programs. Russia recently said it would extend Snowden’s asylum to 2020.