This week, WikiLeaks released what it says are thousands of pages related to CIA hacking operations, according to The New York Times.
While WikiLeaks hasn’t revealed the source of the leaked documents, they do have a name for it: Vault 7. The documents detail CIA hacking procedures to access computers, Apple and Android smartphones, and even TVs connected to the internet.
It’s not just about hacking, though. The WikiLeaks CIA dump also includes information about how the agency and its allies have allegedly been able to bypass encryption on popular apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal, and even gain access to PDFs and antivirus software.
The CIA won’t comment on the authenticity of the documents, but this level of detail does reveal something: Your information might be more vulnerable than you think.
What the WikiLeaks CIA hacking means
The New York Times says that there is no evidence that the CIA’s hacking efforts have targeted ordinary Americans. Instead, the WikiLeaks documents outline how the spy agency looks into people around the world.
Frankly, that’s their job.
The WikiLeaks CIA dump might not actually offer anything particularly new. Remember Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency leaks?
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned. WikiLeaks has not published the actual code the CIA uses to conduct their digital monitoring, but if that code does become public, other hackers could use it to target average consumers.
If you are connected to the internet, you are susceptible to hacking from government agencies or criminals. Everything from your financial data to your personal information could be vulnerable.
Are you putting your information at risk?
You don’t need the CIA or NSA to hack your information; you could be putting your data at risk every day.
Seemingly simple acts such as logging on to public Wi-Fi or typing on a wireless keyboard could make you susceptible to hackers. Depending on how and where you use your banking apps and what you share online, you could be giving hackers more access than you expect.
Snowden’s NSA leak revealed that intelligence agencies could theoretically turn on microphones and cameras on your phone and computer to listen in on what’s happening in the room. Even your headphones could offer an “in” for hackers.
Improve your security online
The WikiLeaks CIA hacking is a good reminder that it’s time to check your personal cybersecurity and take steps to beef up your efforts.
It’s important to understand that, given enough time, a skilled hacker can break into your smartphone or get into your financial accounts. The only way to avoid it completely is to go off-grid, paying for everything in cash and conducting financial business via snail mail.
That’s not an option for most people, but there are simpler things you can do to boost your security online.
1. Update your devices
Don’t ignore your devices’ prompts to update the software. According to CNN Money, updating your devices is one of the best ways to slow hackers down.
The WikiLeaks CIA dump pointed out several ways to potentially hack into both Android and Apple smartphones, but Apple says that their latest software update solved many of vulnerabilities pointed out by WikiLeaks.
2. Create stronger passwords
Create stronger passwords for your accounts and use a different password for each of your financial accounts.
Using the same password makes it simpler for you to log in, but it also makes a hacker’s job easier. They just have to force their way into one account before using that same log-in info to access your other data.
Use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols when you create passwords, and change them often. A tool like LastPass can help you safely keep track of your log-in credentials.
3. Be wary of public Wi-Fi
Because public Wi-Fi is vulnerable, your information could be stolen when you use a public network. Don’t access your financial accounts or make sensitive transactions when you’re on public Wi-Fi. Wait until you’re on a secure network to access those accounts.
4. Monitor your financial accounts
While the CIA could theoretically hack your computer or listen to private conversations in your home, you’re probably more at risk for fraudulent purchases. Should the worst happen, regularly monitoring your financial accounts can help you catch a breach fast.
Review your account activity weekly and thoroughly review monthly statements to discover problem purchases and secure your account as quickly as possible.
5. Don’t shy away from tape
It might seem like something only a truly paranoid person would do, but placing tape over your computer’s camera is the simplest way to ensure no one is remotely spying on you. Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg puts tape over his camera and microphone jack.
The WikiLeaks CIA hacking isn’t likely to directly affect you, but it’s a good reminder to check your personal security protocols and take efforts to reduce your digital vulnerabilities. Want more tips to protect your online data? Make sure you’re doing these seven things.
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