In March, WikiLeaks published documents revealing a CIA tool for breaking into Samsung Smart TVs, dubbed “Weeping Angel” — and this weekend, we got the full user manual. This page, published by WikiLeaks, shows exactly what an agent needs to do to turn a Samsung Smart TV into a live microphone, right down to tinkering with the TV’s System Time setting. There are even different bitrate settings, in case the agents need high-quality recordings.
When the hack was first released, Samsung said it was “urgently looking into the matter,” but it’s unclear whether TVs can be effectively patched to protect against the hack.
In some ways, the new data confirms the limitations of the hack. This version only works on F-Series models and it can only be installed in person, by plugging a USB drive into the TV you want to infect. That means Weeping Angel can’t be used for mass surveillance, and even if you own a Samsung F-Series, it’s extremely unlikely your TV has been targeted and infected.
Still, the broader implications are harder to dismiss. The CIA isn’t the only intelligence agency working on this kind of exploit, and it’s a good bet that both the NSA and its adversaries in Russia and China have far more sophisticated ways to crack a smart TV. As the industry gets used to voice commands and on-screen Skype calls, microphones have become a standard feature, making it increasingly difficult to find a television that isn’t vulnerable to this kind of attack. The result is a problem for the entire industry, and one that’s only getting harder to solve.