Here’s what Edward Snowden thinks is the real threat of the CIA’s Wikileaks hacks

Edward Snowden speaks via video link at a news conference for the launch of a campaign calling for his pardon on September 14, 2016 in New York City.
Image: spencer platt/Getty Images

To hack into your Samsung TV, the CIA isn’t breaking into your house. They’re hacking it when you order on Amazon.

That’s what Edward Snowden pointed out during an interview on Tuesday with The Intercept. The interview was taped live at SXSW for the podcast Intercepted.

The CIA’s efforts to hack the microphones of voice-connected Samsung TVs was one of the most widespread takeaways of Wikileaks’ Vault 7 document dump a week ago. But the hack wasn’t the fault of the vulnerable Internet of Things. Instead, it required hacking TVs with a USB stick.

“People say, the CIA’s not going to be breaking into my house,” Snowden said via video from Russia. “That’s true but they don’t go into your house. They wait for when these devices are being shipped to you, when you order them on Amazon or whatever. They go to them at the airports, they get the box, they used a little hairdryer to soften the adhesive, they open the box, then they put the USB stick in. They seal the box back up all nice and perfect, and then they ship it on to you. And now your router, your computer, your TV is hacked. This is a very routine thing that happens.”

Snowden added that the hack could be used on a device on its way to a region with a nuclear facility, to an office or location connected to a political party, or to a newsroom.

“This is a method they apply to many different things,” he said. “These are the kind of causes for concern.”

Snowden also discussed President Donald Trump’s unsupported claims that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower which he said could be true in some roundabout way, given the extent of government surveillance and why these sorts of claims are nothing new, even though it seems worse now.

“This is actually not new. What is different is they are so inept that we see it,” he said of the Trump administration.

And even though Snowden said the Obama White House could have wiretapped Trump associates, he didn’t side with Trump.

“The problem is not poor Donald Trump,” he said. “You’re the president. You should be asking, ‘Why is this possible in the first place?'”

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