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Wikileaks releases ‘Cherry Blossom’ – Wireless Router Hacking System Used by the CIA

Wikileaks releases ‘Cherry Blossom’ – Wireless Router Hacking System Used by the CIAWikileaks releases 'Cherry Blossom' - Wireless Router Hacking System Used by the CIA

WikiLeaks has published a new batch of the ongoing Vault 7 leak, this time detailing a framework – which is being used by the CIA for monitoring the Internet activity of the targeted systems by exploiting vulnerabilities in Wi-Fi devices.

Dubbed “Cherry Blossom,” the framework was allegedly designed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with the help of Stanford Research Institute (SRI International), an American nonprofit research institute, as part of its ‘Cherry Bomb’ project.

Cherry Blossom is basically a remotely controllable firmware-based implant for wireless networking devices, including routers and wireless access points (APs), which exploits router vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access and then replace firmware with custom Cherry Blossom firmware.

“An implanted device [called Flytrap] can then be used to monitor the internet activity of and deliver software exploits to targets of interest.” a leaked CIA manual reads.

“The wireless device itself is compromised by implanting a customized CherryBlossom firmware on it; some devices allow upgrading their firmware over a wireless link, so no physical access to the device is necessary for a successful infection,” WikiLeaks says.

According to Wikileaks, CIA hackers use Cherry Blossom hacking tool to hijack wireless networking devices on the targeted networks and then perform man-in-the-middle attacks to monitor and manipulate the Internet traffic of connected users.

Wikileaks releases 'Cherry Blossom' - Wireless Router Hacking System Used by the CIA

Once it takes full control on the wireless device, it reports back to CIA controlled command-and-control server referred as ‘CherryTree,’ from where it receives instructions and accordingly perform malicious tasks, which include:

  • Monitoring network traffic to collect email addresses, chat user names, MAC addresses, and VoIP numbers
  • Redirecting connected users to malicious websites
  • Injecting malicious content into the data stream to fraudulently deliver malware and compromise the connected systems
  • Setting up VPN tunnels to access clients connected to Flytrap’s WLAN/LAN for further exploitation
  • Copying of the full network traffic of a targeted device

According to an installation guide, the CherryTree C&C server must be located in a secure sponsored facility and installed on Dell PowerEdge 1850 powered virtual servers, running Red Hat Fedora 9, with at least 4GB of RAM.

Cherry Blossom Hacks Wi-Fi Devices from Wide-Range of Vendors

Wikileaks releases 'Cherry Blossom' - Wireless Router Hacking System Used by the CIA

Cherry Blossom can exploit vulnerabilities in hundreds of Wi-Fi devices (full list here) manufactured by the following vendors:

Belkin, D-Link, Linksys, Aironet/Cisco, Apple AirPort Express, Allied Telesyn, Ambit, AMIT Inc, Accton, 3Com, Asustek Co, Breezecom, Cameo, Epigram, Gemtek, Global Sun, Hsing Tech, Orinoco, PLANET Technology, RPT Int, Senao, US Robotics and Z-Com.