Wikileaks today released documents that appear to describe software tools used by the CIA to break into the devices that we all use at home and work. While we are still reviewing the material, we have not seen any indications that the encryption of popular privacy apps such as Signal and WhatsApp has been broken. We believe that encryption still offers significant protection against surveillance.
The worst thing that could happen is for users lose faith in encryption-enabled tools and stop using them. The releases do reaffirm that users should make sure they are using the most current version of the apps on their devices. And vendors should move quickly to patch these flaws to protect users from both government and criminal attackers.
The dark side of this story is that the documents confirm that the CIA holds on to security vulnerabilities in software and devices—including Android phones, iPhones, and Samsung televisions—that millions of people around the world rely on. The agency appears to have failed to accurately assess the risk of not disclosing vulnerabilities to responsible vendors and failed to follow even the limited Vulnerabilities Equities Process. As these leaks show, we're all made less safe by the CIA's decision to keep — rather than ensure the patching of — vulnerabilities. Even spy agencies like the CIA have a responsibility to protect the security and privacy of Americans.