CIA targeted Avast and AVG security programs

Wikileaks documents show the US intelligence agency has been bypassing computer security

Documents released by Wikileaks show that the US Central Intelligence Agency targeted Prague-based Avast and Brno-based AVG among other internet security firms. The CIA has been developing methods to bypass computer security so it can spy on computers and mobile devices, according to the leaked data.

Avast has some 400 million users, accounting for 40 percent of the security software market outside of China. In September 2016, Avast acquired AVG Technologies for $1.3 billion. The leaked CIA document was from 2014.

Some 21 security products from several firms were mentioned in a CIA document on bypass techniques. The document was labeled Personal Security Products (PSPs). There was no additional information on how Avast was bypassed, but for AVG there was a note mentioning a “fake installer trick.”

The companies listed in the CIA document are Comodo, Avast, F-Secure, Zemana Antilogger, Zone Alarm, Trend Micro, Symantec, Rising, Panda Security, Norton, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, EMET (Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit), Microsoft Security Essentials, McAfee, Kaspersky, GDATA, ESET, ClamAV, Bitdefenderm Avira and AVG.

Wikileaks had redacted information from the document including code that could be exploited by other people.

Anti-virus and internet security firms have been trying to respond to the revelations by fixing gaps in their coverage.

Avast Vice President Sinan Eren asked the makers of the Android and iOS platfroms, Google and Apple respectively, to give internet security firms better access to the systems so they can respond faster, according to news agency Reuters.

“We can prevent attacks in real time if we are given the hooks into the mobile operating system. If we can drive a paradigm shift where mobile platforms don't shut off access, we'll be better able to detect when hackers are hiding in a mobile (phone),” he told Reuters from his office in Avast's branch in California.

Apple told Reuters that many of the issues had already been patched, while Google declined to comment. The CIA also declined comment.

The same dump of CIA documents by Wikileaks also showed that the CIA was attempting to use new smart TVs equipped with microphones and video cameras to spy on people by making them appear to be off while still having the microphone active.

The Wikileaks document can be found here wikileaks.org.

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