- Former CIA chief Gen. Michael Hayden appeared on CBS' Late Show on Tuesday
- Hayden says CIA doesn't eavesdrop on Americans by hacking into TV sets
- WikiLeaks revealed documents showing CIA capabilities of hacking into devices
The former head of the CIA sought to calm anxious Americans who may be worried that the vaunted US spy agency is eavesdropping through their smart television sets.
Gen. Michael Hayden told Stephen Colbert of CBS' Late Show on Tuesday that the CIA does not spy on Americans.
Earlier on Tuesday, WikiLeaks unveiled what it says are official CIA documents showing that the agency has the capability to hack into smartphones and televisions, which it then uses to spy on people.
'I can tell you that these tools would not be used against an American,' Hayden told Colbert.
When Colbert pressed the point as to why the CIA wouldn't use the technology to gather information about Americans, Hayden replied: 'There are some bad people in the world who have Samsung TVs too.'
The former head of the CIA, General Michael Hayden (left), sought to calm anxious Americans who may be worried that the vaunted US spy agency is eavesdropping through their smart television sets. Hayden appeared on CBS' Late Show with Stephen Colbert (right) on Tuesday
'I can tell you that these tools would not be used against an American,' Hayden told Colbert
'There are people out there that you want us to spy on. You want us to have the ability to actually turn on that listening device inside the TV to learn that person's intentions.'
The anti-secrecy organization on Tuesday published what it said were thousands of pages of internal CIA discussions about hacking techniques used over several years, renewing concerns about the security of consumer electronics and embarrassing yet another US intelligence agency.
The discussion transcripts showed that CIA hackers could get into Apple Inc iPhones, Google Inc Android devices and other gadgets in order to capture text and voice messages before they were encrypted with sophisticated software.
Cyber security experts disagreed about the extent of the fallout from the data dump, but said a lot would depend on whether WikiLeaks followed through on a threat to publish the actual hacking tools that could do damage.
The anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks on Tuesday published what it said were thousands of pages of internal CIA discussions about hacking techniques used over several years. The CIA logo is seen at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in this 2016 file photo
The discussion transcripts showed that CIA hackers could get into Apple Inc iPhones, Google Inc Android devices and other gadgets in order to capture text and voice messages before they were encrypted with sophisticated software
Reuters could not immediately verify the contents of the published documents, but several contractors and private cyber security experts said the materials, dated between 2013 and 2016, appeared to be legitimate.
A longtime intelligence contractor with expertise in US hacking tools told Reuters the documents included correct 'cover' terms describing active cyber programs.
Among the most noteworthy WikiLeaks claims is that the Central Intelligence Agency, in partnership with other US and foreign agencies, has been able to bypass the encryption on popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.
The files did not indicate the actual encryption of Signal or other secure messaging apps had been compromised.
Among the most noteworthy WikiLeaks claims is that the Central Intelligence Agency, in partnership with other US and foreign agencies, has been able to bypass the encryption on popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp (seen above), Telegram and Signal
One document claims that US and British personnel use a program known as Weeping Angel, which is capable of taking over a Samsung smart television (above), making it appear it was off when in fact it was recording conversations in the room
The information in what WikiLeaks said were 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments appears to represent the latest breach in recent years of classified material from US intelligence agencies.
Security experts differed over how much the disclosures could damage US cyber espionage.
Many said that, while harmful, they do not compare to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's revelations in 2013 of mass NSA data collection.
'This is a big dump about extremely sophisticated tools that can be used to target individual user devices ... I haven't yet come across the mass exploiting of mobile devices,' said Tarah Wheeler, senior director of engineering and principal security advocate for Symantec.
Stuart McClure, CEO of Cylance, an Irvine, California, cyber security firm, said that one of the most significant disclosures shows how CIA hackers cover their tracks by leaving electronic trails suggesting they are from Russia, China and Iran rather than the United States.
Other revelations show how the CIA took advantage of vulnerabilities that are known, if not widely publicized.
In one case, the documents say, US and British personnel, under a program known as Weeping Angel, developed ways to take over a Samsung smart television, making it appear it was off when in fact it was recording conversations in the room.
Meanwhile, it was learned that FBI Director James Comey has canceled a scheduled public appearance at an Austin, Texas, music and arts festival where he was expected to address allegations of wiretapping made by President Donald Trump, according to The Washington Examiner.
Over the weekend, Trump dropped a bombshell by claiming that then-President Barack Obama ordered wiretaps of his phones at Trump Tower during the election campaign.
Comey has reportedly asked the Justice Department to push back on the claim.
The FBI chief was scheduled to appear Monday at SXSW in Austin, but event organizers put out a statement on Tuesday saying that he won't be able to attend due to 'scheduling conflicts.'
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