“Cherry Blossom”: WikiLeaks #Vault7 Reveals CIA WiFi Network Targeting Project

"Cherry Blossom": WikiLeaks #Vault7 Reveals CIA WiFi Network Targeting Project

The latest Wikileaks Vault7 release reveals details of the CIA’s alleged Cherry Blossom project, a scheme that uses wireless devices to access users’ internet activity.

The Cherry Blossom program was developed and implemented with the help of the US nonprofit Stanford Research Institute (SRI International) and provides a means to perform software exploits on particular ‘targets’, meaning the hacker can take advantage of vulnerabilities on the target’s device, according to a Wikileaks press release.

Wikileaks notes that the common use of WiFi devices in homes, offices, and public spaces makes them ideal for these so-called ‘Man-In-The-Middle’ attacks as the Cherry Blossom program can easily monitor, control and manipulate the Internet traffic of connected users.

CherryBlossom provides a means of monitoring the Internet activity of and performing software exploits on Targets of interest.

In particular, CherryBlossom is focused on compromising wireless networking devices, such as wireless routers and access points (APs), to achieve these goals.

Such Wi-Fi devices are commonly used as part of the Internet infrastructure in private homes, public spaces (bars, hotels or airports), small and medium sized companies as well as enterprise offices. Therefore these devices are the ideal spot for “Man-In-The-Middle” attacks, as they can easily monitor, control and manipulate the Internet traffic of connected users.

By altering the data stream between the user and Internet services, the infected device can inject malicious content into the stream to exploit vulnerabilities in applications or the operating system on the computer of the targeted user.

Malicious content can be injected into the data stream between the user and the internet service, which exploits vulnerabilities in the target’s computer or operating system, according to WikiLeaks.

No physical access is required to implant the customized Cherry Blossom firmware on a wireless device as some devices allow their firmware to be upgraded over a wireless link.

The new firmware on the device can be triggered to turn the router or access point into a so-called ‘FlyTrap’. The FlyTrap can scan for “email addresses, chat usernames, MAC addresses and VoIP numbers” in passing network traffic, according to the leaked documents.

A FlyTrap will beacon over the Internet to a Command & Control server referred to as the CherryTree. The beaconed information contains device status and security information that the CherryTree logs to a database. In response to this information, the CherryTree sends a Mission with operator-defined tasking. An operator can use CherryWeb, a browser-based user interface to view Flytrap status and security info, plan Mission tasking, view Mission-related data, and perform system administration tasks.

Missions may include tasking on Targets to monitor, actions/exploits to perform on a Target, and instructions on when and how to send the next beacon.

Tasks for a Flytrap include (among others) the scan for email addresses, chat usernames, MAC addresses and VoIP numbers in passing network traffic to trigger additional actions, the copying of the full network traffic of a Target, the redirection of a Target’s browser (e.g., to Windex for browser exploitation) or the proxying of a Target’s network connections.

FlyTrap can also setup VPN tunnels to a CherryBlossom-owned VPN server to give an operator access to clients on the Flytrap’s WLAN/LAN for further exploitation. When the Flytrap detects a Target, it will send an Alert to the CherryTree and commence any actions/exploits against the Target.

The CherryTree logs Alerts to a database, and, potentially distributes Alert information to interested parties (via Catapult).


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