British and US spies at risk after WikiLeaks publishes top-secret CIA spyware document
WikiLeaks’ latest dump of top-secret CIA surveillance technology could seriously compromise and even threaten the lives of agents around the world, cyber-security experts have warned.
It came the same day WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had a rape investigation against him dropped by authorities in Sweden.
The release of the secret US intelligence dossier detailing the design and potential uses of one of it’s most up-to-date tracking tools is likely to be greeted with dismay by international spy agencies.
However Assange, who has refused to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, tweeted, “I do not forgive or forget”.
Athens/Hera runs on older Microsoft operating systems such Windows XP and Windows 8 to the company’s latest product Windows 10.
It appears to have entered development in August 2015, and was rolled out in February last year, the documents suggest.
Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure, said: “It looks to me like a classic back door, which is extremely useful if you want to track an individual.
“If someone’s going through airport security, for example, a CIA agent would have the ability to put this on, track him around the world, have a back door and the computer calls home to us.
“The CIA does human intel, so this is something that a CIA agent likely put onto a machine that he or she has physical access to.
“It means that when someone travels the programme will ping back to me and I can track where they are in the world.
“It might also be used to reveal the public IP address of someone running [dark web browser] Tor somewhere.
Asked whether Athens/Hyena could be used to track government officials or other persons of interest to hostile groups, Mr Sullivan replied: “It depends what kind of tools they have to get it on the machine - physical access as opposed to remote access.
He added: “The bigger concern for them, because this involves human intel, is that now that this has been leaked the people who might still have this on their computers will be able to find it, and they might be able to find out who the asset is working for the CIA.
“If there’s only three people who have access to the machine, then that’s the bigger concern for the CIA - the safety of the agent or asset.
“For Five Eyes agents around the world and the western democracies working with the CIA or using the CIA’s tools that’s a great concern.
Mr Sullivan said: “Tools like this are not protected by antivirus because they’re not widely deployed.
“The CIA wants to use this tool sparingly to maintain their ability to use it. If it’s widely deployed it very quickly gets caught.
WikiLeaks was last month denounced by newly-appointed CIA director Mike Pompeo as a threat to U.S. national security.
"Assange and his ilk", he claimed, profess to acting in the name of liberty and privacy, but in reality their mission is "personal self-aggrandisement through the destruction of Western values."
"WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service," Mr Pompeo said.
US officials are also understood the believe Russia or hackers working for Vladimir Putin could be behind a spate of recent releases of classified intelligence material.