UTSA professor weighs in on Wikileaks' CIA documents release

Max Kilger, Ph.D., a senior lecturer at the University of Texas-San Antonio’s cyber security department, is cautioning the public after Wikileaks' release of thousands of pages of documents regarding alleged CIA cyberwarfare techniques.

“What we don't want to see is a generation of sort of paranoia and suspicion. 'Oh, they're spying on me through my iPhone and television.’ Because for the most part, it's not true,” Kilger said. “These devices ... they basically provide a lot of positive benefits and there are some risks involved, as usual.”

Many of the vulnerabilities detailed in Apple and Android operating systems have already been fixed in previous updates. Kilger said the real damage could be to the CIA’s information-gathering abilities.

“These are a lot of tools, some of which may be out in play still in the world, and they're going to have to scramble and produce new tools that they can redeploy,” he said. “I'm a little suspicious of Wikileaks’ motivations, because when you start releasing that information, you basically damage the collection abilities of the intelligence community. You basically give other cybercriminals an idea of where the vulnerabilities might be.”

From an academic standpoint, Kilger sees some potential value in what has been released.

“I think it's true that we have a very strong set of forensics professors here, and they're really interested in that kind of thing,” he said. “It's like, ‘Oh, look, here's a new vulnerability. Let's go take a look at it, see who's been using it and see what kind of devices have been attacked.' To some extent (it's) a small minor gold mine for them.”

It's a gold mine that could translate to new classes or training for future students to keep up with even more techniques aimed at exploiting and protecting vulnerabilities.

“There's a real appreciation for elegant compromises and attacks that perhaps you'd never think of,” Kilger said. “There's always other vulnerabilities. If there's a device and someone really wants to get into it and compromise it, it will probably happen.”

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