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Frankfurt used as remote hacking base for the CIA: WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks documents reveal CIA agents were given cover identities and diplomatic passports to enter the country. The base was used to develop hacking tools as part of the CIA's massive digital arsenal.

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WikiLeaks publishes more than 8000 classified CIA files

WikiLeaks released a trove of CIA documents on Tuesday that it claimed revealed details of its secret hacking arsenal.

The release included 8,761 documents that it claimed revealed details of "malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized 'zero day' exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation."

The leaks purportedly revealed that a top secret CIA unit used the German city of Frankfurt am Main as the starting point for numerous hacking attacks on Europe, China and the Middle East.

Frankfurt base

WikiLeaks reported that the group developed trojans and other malicious software in the American Consulate General Office, the largest US consulate in the world. The programs focused on targets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The documents revealed that CIA experts worked in the building under cover and included advice for life in Germany.

"Do not leave anything electronic or sensitive unattended in your room," it told employees, also advising them to enjoy Lufthansa's free alcohol "in moderation."

The Frankfurt hackers, part of the Center for Cyber Intelligence Europe, were said to be given diplomatic passports and a State Department identity. It instructed employees how to safely enter Germany. A WikiLeaks tweet published an section of the Frankfurt information.

The consulate was the focus of a German investigation into US intelligence capabilities following the 2013 revelation that NSA agents had tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.

German daily "Süddeutsche Zeitung" reported the building was known to be home to a vast network of intelligence personnel including CIA agents, NSA spies, military secret service personnel, Department of Homeland Security employees and Secret Service employees. It reported the Americans had also established a dense network of outposts and shell companies in Frankfurt.

Televisions turned into bugs

An intelligence expert who examined the dump, Rendition Infosec founder Jake Williams, told news agency Associated Press the documents appeared legitimate.

Bob Ayers, a retired US intelligence official currently working as a security analyst told AP the release was "real bad" for the agency.

Jonathan Liu, a spokesman for the CIA, told AP: "We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents."

According to WikiLeaks the documents revealed that the CIA could remotely activate certain Samsung smart televisions equipped with cameras and microphones to turn them into bugs.

Smartphones hacked

WikiLeaks also claimed that if the CIA had hacked a cell phone, it could then bypass encryption methods used by popular chat programs such as Whatsapp, Telegram, Signal and Confide. This prompted some concern at first online that all such messaging "Apps" were no longer effectively encrypted - but the exploit only applied to people whose phones are already compromised. According to the leaks, the CIA has undocumented exploits on popular smartphone models.

In a series of tweets NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said deliberately leaving vulnerabilities in software and hardware open left public users susceptible to attacks.

Snowden said the documents appeared to be genuine. 

The documents also revealed that the CIA had the ability to conduct false flag attacks using malware stolen from other nations.

According to WikiLeaks the trove showed that the CIA had lost control of its arsenal of hacking tools.

WikiLeaks said it was given the files by an anonymous source who wanted to shed public light on the hacking programs.

The collection of documents vastly outnumbered the trove on the NSA released by Snowden.

aw/msh (dpa, AP)

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