The CIA and MI5 worked together developing viruses designed to turn Samsung smart TVs into household bugs, recording audio and sending data to covert computer servers, according to a new cache of leaked intelligence documents published by Wikileaks.
The group claims it is the largest ever release of CIA files.
Among the 8,761 documents of the “Vault 7” leak are papers describing “weaponised” malware directed at iPhone and Android users, designed to bypass encryption used by popular apps such as Confide.
Wikileaks claims a programme called Weeping Angel was developed to infect Samsung TVs. It sent the television into a fake off mode, recording conversations in the room and sending them to a CIA server.
In all, the documents suggest the agency created more than 1000 viruses, Trojans and other types of malware, often disguised as the work of foreign organisations.
It also accuses the US government of failing to abide by its commitment to tell technology companies of any identified vulnerabilities, instead “hoarding weaknesses for use by spy agencies.
Wikileaks said some of the most damaging elements of the programme were unclassified so that applications could be legally spread around the Internet.
Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who remains inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he is evading arrest, said: “There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber ‘weapons’.
“Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such ‘weapons’, which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade.
“But the significance of ‘Year Zero’ goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace.
The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective.”
Jonathan Liu, a spokesman for the CIA, said: “We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents.”