WikiLeaks Reveals CIA Windows Spyware ‘Athena’

CIA Athena

WikiLeaks has published documents from the CIA’s “Athena” project, a spyware malware that targets all versions of Windows from Windows XP to Windows 10.

Codenamed “Athena”, the malware was developed by the CIA alongside New Hampshire-based ‘cybersecurity’ company Siege Technologies. The malware provides “remote beacon and loader capabilities” on victims’ Windows machines.

An excerpt from WikiLeaks’ reveal reads:

Once installed, the malware provides a beaconing capability (including configuration and task handling), the memory loading/unloading of malicious payloads for specific tasks and the delivery and retrieval of files to/from a specified directory on the target system.

The malware even enables the operator behind it to tweak and configure settings during runtime, effectively customizing the malware.

“I feel more comfortable working on electronic warfare,” Jason Syversen, Siege Technologies founder reportedly said in an email published by WikiLeaks. “It’s a little different than bombs and nuclear weapons – that’s a morally complex field to be in.”

Athena joins WannaCry as two variants of government-sponsored malware wherein the CIA has effectively discovered vulnerabilities in the world’s most popular operating system and made malware to exploit it. As opposed to notifying or reporting the vulnerabilities to Microsoft.

For its part, Microsoft has laid the blame on the US government for creating the hacking tools that were used in the sweeping global cyberattack instigated by the WannaCry ransomware.

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith wrote the following in a blog post during the WannaCry attack:

[T]his attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem. This is an emerging pattern in 2017. We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world. Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage. 

He further stated that the governments of the world ought to treat this attack as a ‘wake-up call’ and urged them to take a different approach in tact in dealing with weapons in cyberspace, akin to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world.

Image credit: Wikimedia.