Julian Assange claimed today that the CIA has lost control of its arsenal of hacking tools from the so-called Vault 7. Assange said Wikileaks might release some of the tools and also warned they could wind up on the black market. From NBC News:
“We have quite a lot of exploits that we want to disarm before publishing,” Assange said.
Assange said his group’s act showed that “it is impossible to keep effective control of cyber weapons” and that “if you build them, eventually you will lose them.”
He added that the material “may also be in black market or used by American hackers who cross both sides of the fence.”
This evening, NBC News has a new story pointing out that, thus far, no one has identified any of the hacking tools for sale on the black market:
No one from the U.S. government explicitly denied Assange’s sweeping claim, but outside experts were skeptical. Some wondered how Assange could possibly know how many hacking tools the CIA possessed, even if a large number were compromised.
“We have never seen the authentic tools from Vault 7 leak on the ‘black market’,” computer researcher Andrew Komarov told NBC News, using the name WikiLeaks gave to the leaked document archive.
Assange’s goal has always been clear. His 2006 essay described nations as conspiracies of information. He believed that by exposing secrets you could weaken these “conspiratorial power groupings.” He quite literally described it as a technological alternative to assassination. Given Assange’s stated goals, to use hacking to weaken nations, what would you expect him to do with a set of very powerful hacking tools? I think he would be very tempted to disseminate them and thereby promote further intrusions and further leaks.
Of course, Assange would be judged terribly irresponsible if he released such tools himself, but if he were to blame the CIA (as he did today) and add cryptically that the tools “may” already be out there, he gets all of the benefits with none of the public consequences. Maybe it’s true the tools are already out there on the black market and maybe it’s true the CIA is at fault, but you can’t overlook the fact that Assange himself seems to have them and there’s reason to think he might like to see them used against the United States.