America’s main spy agency allegedly tried hacking into cars’ vehicle control systems to carry out “nearly undetectable assassinations”.
While the latest dump from Wikileaks provides plenty of cheap laughs about just how unerringly geeky and un-James Bond actual modern spies are (they named the program they developed to allow them to listen to people through their Samsung TVs “Weeping Angel”, after some scary statues on Dr Who), it also contained some genuinely alarming revelations about spooks hacking people’s cars to turn them into weapons.
Deep in the bowels of the 8700 documents that make up Wikileaks’ Vault 7 exposé comes the revelation that America’s Central Intelligence Agency was looking at ways to remotely take over a car’s on-board computer and forcing it to crash (the car, not the computer), as a way of carrying out “nearly undetectable assassinations”.
The “nearly” might be the reason that, as far as we know, they never actually got around to using this cunning form of vehicular manslaughter.
You’d have to think that kind of hack would leave a few digital traces in any car’s black box recording software (which can, in theory, be used by crash investigators to work out what your throttle position, revs and brake pressure were doing moments before you speared off the road).
The leaked documents detail how the hugely nerdy Weeping Angel program – developed to allow spies to use the microphone in Samsung TVs to eavesdrop on people’s living rooms, even when the televisions were turned off – was going to be extended to cars and trucks, specifically to target “vehicle-control systems”.
The idea was discussed, allegedly, at a meeting of the Embedded Development Branch in October 2014.
"The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations," Wikileaks helpfully points out.
Less than a year later, “security researchers” demonstrated to a brave journalist from Wired magazine how they could remotely take over the steering, transmission and brakes in a Jeep he was driving by hacking into Chrysler’s Uconnect system.
It was a bold stunt that caused a recall of 1.4 million vehicles and made the world realise the dangers of internet-connected cars.
The CIA has refused to confirm the veracity of the documents, because all of its spies are locked in a room being shouted at by President Trump’s minions. They’re not even allowed to leave the room to take a leak.