News Roundup: WikiLeaks, cyber treaties, and robots on ice

A roundup of the week’s tech news including African tech funding, Dislike buttons, and Samsung recycling.

WikiLeaks vs CIA

WikiLeaks is at it again. Julian Assange’s site this week revealed a trove of over 8,000 documents showing the CIA has offensive cyberwar capabilities on par with that of the NSA.

The main headlines from the Vault7 dump were that the CIA hack phones to get around encryption for messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Signal, can hack smart TVs to turn them into surveillance devices, and bypass antivirus. The CIA has apparently more than 70 different tools and exploits within its armoury. Many are based on malware found in the wild and repurposed for the CIA’s needs.

Reports suggest the leaks came from a former U.S. government contractor, but the agency is investigating. The ever-bashful Assange called the leaks “a historic act of devastating incompetence” by the CIA, and promised to work closely with tech companies to remediate any exploits not already fixed.

Apple has said it had already fixed most the iOS exploits listed, Samsung is “urgently looking into the matter”, Google is confident everything is secure, ProtonMail says it’s definitely safe, and a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged the US to “stop listening in, monitoring, stealing secrets and [conducting] cyber-attacks against China and other countries.”

The CIA, as is often the case, refused to confirm nor deny the veracity of the information, but warned such leaks harms the US and claimed that Assange “is not exactly a bastion of truth and integrity.” The agency also likes Dank memes.

Cyber treaties and hacking bills

The world needs a global treaty to protect people’s privacy, according the UN’s chief on the issue. “It's time to start reclaiming cyberspace from the menace of over-surveillance,” said Joseph A. Cannataci, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy. “What the world needs is not more state-sponsored shenanigans on the internet but rational, civilized agreement about appropriate state behaviour in cyberspace. This is not utopia. This is cold, stark reality.”

His report calls for an “international warrant” to unify access to data or conduct surveillance.

In other news, a new bill in the US could potentially allow victims of hackers to legally hack back. The Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act (ACDC), put forward by Republican congressman Tom Graves, would allow victims of a hack to “gather information in order to establish attribution of criminal activity to share with law enforcement or disrupt continued unauthorized activity against the victim’s network. The retaliation would be limited, however, and would not allow any action which “destroys the information stored on computers of another, causes physical injury to another person, or creates a threat to the public health or safety.”

“This bill is about empowering individuals to defend themselves online, just as they have the legal authority to do during a physical assault,” said Rep. Graves. “While the bill doesn’t solve every problem, it’s an important first step. I hope my bill helps individuals defend themselves against cybercriminals while igniting a conversation that leads to more ideas and solutions that address this growing threat.”


We asked for a Dislike button, we got given Facebook Reactions. But might FB finally be giving the people the opportunity to be negative online? According to TechCrunch, the social network is testing a Dislike button and the usual Reactions within Messenger for selected users.

Samsung refurb

If you’re a mobile phone giant stuck with several million potentially explosive defective devices, what do you do? That’s exactly the problem Samsung is facing with its massive stock of Galaxy Note 7s. Greenpeace has made a point of demanding the company properly recycles them, and the company is rumoured to be listening. According to, the Korean giant is working on a project codenamed Grace R (for Refurbished) which will see Note 7s refurbed and sold in South Korea. It would have to be a damn good device or super cheap to convince people to actually buy one, however.


HPE has acquired Nimble Storage, Amazon Web Service has made a double swoop for Thinkbox and, CA now owns Veracode, Google has got its hands on both AppBridge and Kaggle, Okta has purchased Stormpath, and Giphy has splashed out for Imoji.

Microsoft is closing down Socl, the social media site from its Research division which never really got off the ground.

African startup funding

A new report from Partech Ventures pegged VC funding in African tech at a record $366.8 million in 2016. That’s double the $185 million African startups managed to raise in 2015.  Nigeria saw the most investment, followed by South Africa, and then Kenya.

Ice, ice, baby

When our robot overlords finally rise up and take over the puny human race, the only place we might be able to go is North. A new video from Ghost Robotics - the creators of the wall-climbing Minotaur bot – shows its device struggling to get a grip on the ice. It’s YouTube gold.


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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