WikiLeaks Reveals 2017 Is The New 1984

  • Calvin Wolf
  • Mar 8, 2017 11:25AM

In the late 1990s, Hollywood fave Will Smith starred in a high-octane techno-thriller with Gene Hackman. Though a box-office success, the film seemed a bit outlandish at the time. Smith played a liberal lawyer who inadvertently ended up in possession of a bit of electronica that was desired by a group of shady government rogues, who quickly used their National Security Agency (NSA) tech wizardry, plus gun-wielding goons, to pursue the innocent barrister. The movie, Enemy of the State, seems far less outlandish today.

It turns out that Uncle Sam may have far greater tech surveillance (and possibly sabotage) skills than the general public has assumed. WikiLeaks has just released a new trove of documents taken from the Central Intelligence Agency, which it is calling “Vault 7.”  The documents, allegedly given to WikiLeaks by a former government “hacker” or “contractor,” cover the years 2013 to 2016 and reveal tremendous government hacking ability.

From iPhone to Android to most computers, and even televisions, nothing is apparently safe from the CIA’s growing tech wizardry. The intelligence community can allegedly remotely control digital devices like cell phones and turn on their cameras and microphones, allowing government agents to spy on the owners of those phones. More outrageously, documents claim that the U.S. government also explored the ability to control automobiles remotely and crash them, allowing for the “undetectable” assassination of foreign baddies.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem that it is all that difficult anymore for someone to hack your brand-new car and disable it: In 2015, hackers managed to wreak havoc on a new Jeep Cherokee in an authorized experiment. The possibility of intelligence or law enforcement agencies accessing our vehicles’ data, or surreptitiously implanting hidden devices to control our cars, raises lots of troubling questions. While most would consider it gross overreach for the government to try to access physical data ports on cars, what about pulling cars’ digital signals from the air?

We citizens should be alarmed by the increasing ability for our government to learn about our lives from streaming digital data and insist upon firmer limits established by legislatures and courts. Although gleaning our cars’ mileage data and engine records from servers or the airwaves may not seem particularly scary, all that data becomes part of our known profiles. The government can learn tremendous amounts about us, and our daily lives, by processing the seemingly-innocuous data from our many devices.