Compromising a router has been the most effective strategy to orchestrate a cyber attack, with router devices offering total access and few security measures.
According to a new document published by WikiLeaks, the CIA has been building and maintaining a host of tools to bypass routers. The documents revealed that a programme called Cherry Blossom was being developed which uses a modified version of a given router’s firmware to turn the device into a surveillance tool for the CIA.
Once the programme functions, Cherry Blossom will let agents monitor the target’s internet traffic, passwords, and may even succeed in redirecting the user to the desired web page.
WikiLeaks previously released publications on CIA hacking tools, including information on targeting Apple and Samsung.
The WikiLeaks document is dated back to 2012 so it’s not clear what CIA did with such technology.
Different versions of Cherry Blossom exist, each tailored to a specific brand and model of router.
“As of August 2012, CB-implanted firmwares can be built for roughly 25 different devices from 10 different manufacturers, including Asus, Belkin, Buffalo, Dell, DLink, Linksys, Motorola, Netgear, Senao, and US Robotics,” according to the leaked manual.
The manual also goes into detail on how CIA agents would typically install the modified firmware on a given device. “In typical operation,” another passage reads, “a wireless device of interest is implanted with Cherry Blossom firmware, either using the Claymore tool or via a supply chain operation.”
With increased occurrences of cyber attacks and potentially devastating repercussions seen globally, this technology certainly has a role to play. However, whether CIA used it in a preemptive manner or a preventive manner remains to be seen.
There is also reason to believe the NSA was employing similar tactics with documents published in 2015 by Edward Snowden detailing efforts by the UK’s GCHQ to exploit vulnerabilities in 13 models of Juniper firewalls.
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