This week WikiLeaks published a trove of documents that appear to show how the Central Intelligence Agency successfully hacked a variety of tech gadgets including iPhones, Android devices, Wi-Fi routers and Samsung televisions.
This covers up just about every major category of daily consumer electronics. So what does it mean to you if you have one or several such gadgets?
For many people, it may not mean anything. The documents refer to programs which attacked outdated versions of the operating systems running on device. Many security vulnerabilities have since been patched.
WikiLeaks, which released documents covering the years 2013 to 2016, has said that its initial publication is just the first installment in a bigger cache of secret C.I.A. material.
What to do if you’re an Android user
Millions of Android users still use devices based on older versions of the Operating System. WikiLeaks document collection showed that the Android devices targeted by the hacking programs were mostly running Android 4.0 version.
Even today, about 30 percent of Android users are using a variant of Android 4.0, according to Google. The company said it was investigating reports of the security issues described in the WikiLeaks documents.
“The one thing that people can and should be doing is keeping their apps and phones as up-to-date as possible,” said Kurt Opsahl, deputy executive director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights nonprofit.
Many older Android handsets are unable to download the latest version of the Android software. If you own an outdated phone, it’s a good time to purchase a new one.
Other than updating Operating System, Google recommends that Android users should protect their devices with lock screens and enable App verification in settings which scans apps, downloaded from external sources, for malware.
What to do if you’re an iPhone user.
Few iPhone users are also running outdated versions of operating systems like Android device users which means only a minority of iPhone users have devices with iOS versions that the WikiLeaks documents mention.
Specifically, WikiLeaks documents referred to exploits working on versions of iOS up to 8.2. According to Apple about 79 percent of Apple users are running iOS 10, the latest version of the system, while only 5 percent are running a version older than iOS 9.
For those worried about their iPhone security, the advice is generally the same as for Android users: iPhone and iPad users should make sure to be running the latest operating system. Apple said that many of the security issues described in the WikiLeaks documents had already been patched in the latest version of its software and it is working to address remaining vulnerabilities.
Likewise users who own devices which can’t be updated any further should consider purchasing a newer model with the latest operating system.