In the Wake of CIA Leaks, FBI Director Comey Cancels SXSW Appearance

This week’s release of documents purporting to detail CIA tools and methods for hacking smartphones and spying on individuals via home gadgets is the biggest intelligence breech since Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA spying on U.S. citizens and others.

March 10, 2017 8:19 am| ,

This week’s blockbuster leak of CIA hacking methods and tools has rattled the intelligence community and tech industry. Though U.S. officials have not confirmed the authenticity of documents in the Wikileaks release, a pair of high-profile U.S. officials have suddenly changed previous plans to speak at South by Southwest (SCSW) in Austin.

FBI Director James Comey and been scheduled to take part in a Friday panel on cybersecurity, and Paul J. Selva, vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was also set to speak at the conference.

Omar Gallaga, digital savant for the Austin American-Statesman’s 512 Tech says Comey and Selva each pulled out of SXSW, citing scheduling conflicts. FBI General Counsel James Baker will appear on the cybersecurity panel in Comey’s place.

“I think with the Comey one, you had a lot of election baggage that was going to come along with it. There was a protest that was being planned and…a lot of that was going to be weighed down by some other issues not related to the FBI or cybersecurity, necessarily,”Gallaga says.

Tech experts counsel computer and smartphone users to be smart about cybersecurity in their own lives. Change your password often, or use one that’s hard to guess, for example. But there’s not much a user, or the tech industry can to defend against government-sponsored intrusions.

“This goes way beyond that into your smart TV, your Alexa-type devices that are always listening. We kind of already knew that was a possibility with thing like that. But you don’t think of your TV as actively spying on you, or your Android phone necessarily,” Gallaga says.

On the other hand, individuals can limit their exposure to covert eavesdropping, if they’re willing to do without the latest tech gadgets.

“if you introduce these devices into your home, they are going to have that capability, and as of right now, there’s not a whole lot you can do to protect yourself from that kind of spying if it’s the CIA,” he says.

According to an Associated Press report, Wikileaks intends to share technical details of CIA hacking methods with tech companies.

“This feels almost like an identical replay of the Snowden leaks where all of a sudden we were finding out about all these things that were happening that these tech companies were actively involved with or were allowing to happen,”Gallaga says.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.