ON MARCH 7th, 2017, Wikileaks released a giant file of 8,761 documents from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Wikileaks called the leak the “first full part of the series “Year Zero”. The documents were stolen from a network that supposedly was “isolated” within the CIA itself.
Figure 1: The structure of the CIA’s cyber weapons development group, according to Wikileaks.
What is surprising about the leak to Wikileaks is that it contains not only documentation regarding CIA development activities, but also the actual code (“several million lines of code”) used in these various exploits.
It appears that these cyber weapons allow almost any electronic device to be hacked for purposes of intelligence collection.
Since there already is a great deal of publicity regarding these weapons, there is no need to discuss them here.
Effect on U.S. National Security
If the leak is genuine, then this is another giant blow to the intelligence community. It will make it easier now for criminals, terrorists, human traffickers, heroin cartels or others, including other nation states to deploy cyber weapons against the United States. It also will allow these enemies to avoid detection.
It further will erode faith in U.S. technology exports and harm U.S. technology companies.
The persons who leaked the information are traitors, and what they have done will result in people being killed or otherwise harmed. If they are found, then they should be prosecuted.
Wikileaks reports that approximately 22,000 IP addresses located within the United States were targets of these cyber weapons.
The Danger of Cyber Weapons Proliferation
As if they are some type of hero, the leaker wishes “to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
This blogger agrees that we should have a debate, but inflicting severe damage against the intelligence community is hardly the way to do it. An alternative debate might be whether or not the leaker should be shot.
In any case, this leak emphasizes the following dangers of cyber proliferation:
- Unlike the difficulties found in nuclear proliferation, cyber weapons can be dispersed and moved around the world in seconds.
- It is impossible to determine who has access to cyber weapons once they are released.
- Cyber weapons are asymmetric in nature; that is, their cost is a tiny fraction of the value of damage they can cause.
The Need for Cyber Arms Control
This unfortunate compromise in U.S. national security again emphasizes the need for the nations of the world to begin the process of creating an international convention for cyber arms control. The proliferation of cyber weapons needs to be stopped before there is a tremendous disaster.