Wikileaks has released another portion of Vault 7 today called “Dark Matter.” In this telling release comes the story of the CIA’s involvement in bugging a number of Apple products, including iPhones and the Macbook Air.
In short, the leak exposes how the CIA infects Apple Mac computer firmware to gain ‘persistence’ on Apple devices, including laptops and phones. These projects have been developed by the CIA’s Embedded Development Branch (EDB).
WikiLeaks explains that this ‘bug’ allows an attacker/hacker to boot its attack software from a USB stick onto a device, even when a firmware password has been enabled. According to WiKiLeaks, the infector is stored in the Apple Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter.
Essentially, the leak suggests the CIA is bugging iPhones from their factory fresh state and that, regardless of whether or not the user deletes or re-installs an operating system, their phone is bugged. Data can be collected, devices can be hacked, and so forth.
The full live stream press briefing about this release can be viewed here: LIVE: WikiLeaks press briefing in some minutes: CIA #Vault7 “darkmatter” ask questions with #AskWL https://t.co/ldG78exSsu
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 23, 2017
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 23, 2017
Below is WikiLeaks’ press release on the matter.
Today, March 23rd 2017, WikiLeaks releases Vault 7 “Dark Matter”, which contains documentation for several CIA projects that infect Apple Mac Computer firmware (meaning the infection persists even if the operating system is re-installed) developed by the CIA’s Embedded Development Branch (EDB). These documents explain the techniques used by CIA to gain ‘persistence’ on Apple Mac devices, including Macs and iPhones and demonstrate their use of EFI/UEFI and firmware malware.
Among others, these documents reveal the “Sonic Screwdriver” project which, as explained by the CIA, is a “mechanism for executing code on peripheral devices while a Mac laptop or desktop is booting” allowing an attacker to boot its attack software for example from a USB stick “even when a firmware password is enabled”. The CIA’s “Sonic Screwdriver” infector is stored on the modified firmware of an Apple Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter.
“DarkSeaSkies” is “an implant that persists in the EFI firmware of an Apple MacBook Air computer” and consists of “DarkMatter”, “SeaPea” and “NightSkies”, respectively EFI, kernel-space and user-space implants.
Documents on the “Triton” MacOSX malware, its infector “Dark Mallet” and its EFI-persistent version “DerStake” are also included in this release. While the DerStake1.4 manual released today dates to 2013, other Vault 7 documents show that as of 2016 the CIA continues to rely on and update these systems and is working on the production of DerStarke2.0.
Also included in this release is the manual for the CIA’s “NightSkies 1.2” a “beacon/loader/implant tool” for the Apple iPhone. Noteworthy is that NightSkies had reached 1.2 by 2008, and is expressly designed to be physically installed onto factory fresh iPhones. i.e the CIA has been infecting the iPhone supply chain of its targets since at least 2008.
While CIA assets are sometimes used to physically infect systems in the custody of a target it is likely that many CIA physical access attacks have infected the targeted organization’s supply chain including by interdicting mail orders and other shipments (opening, infecting, and resending) leaving the United States or otherwise.
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