A treasure trove of Wikileaks documents details a massive eavesdropping program used by the CIA. The recent leak of nearly 8,000 web pages shows tools used for compromising Wi-Fi networks, controlling smart TV’s, and even tapping into operating iPhone and Android microphones and cameras.
While debate continues over the ethics of the surveillance revelations, one San Antonio company is pointing out that these hacking tools are not new, nor rare.
"The CIA is far and away not the only agency using this. In fact, it's being used by almost everyone all over the world,” said Victor Cocchia, CEO of San Antonio-based Vysk.
Cocchia’s company claims to have the only commercially-available product that can protect against voice and visual eavesdropping.
The product, the QS1, is a case that, when applied and turned on, can block a microphone and camera to prevent those listening in from hearing anything. The people on either end of the call can hear everything perfectly, but third parties only hear distortion.
"We basically render the phone inert during a call,” said Lisa Shaw, Vysk's VP of marketing. "When your phone is powered off, it's not really off. It can still be listening to you and watching you, and a lot of people don't realize that."
Shaw said that most consumers are safe as hackers typically go for big targets like high-level officials, banks or insurance companies. The average person would likely never be on a hacker or government entity’s radar.
In fact, Vysk only sells to large enterprises and government agencies for purposes of national and database security.
But Cocchia said that the industry is quickly headed in the direction where demand is coming from all directions.
"I think it is heading to the area, in a little bit of time, where the consumer is going to start taking steps to protect their phone,” Cocchia said.
Cocchia predicts that security companies will soon start providing advanced privacy technology directly to consumers. Until that happens though, he advises people to be aware of their camera and audio-enabled devices, and to understand that they aren’t ever off unless the battery is removed.
Those who want to be extra cautious can cover their laptop or phone camera with a piece of tape or avoid listing things like their social security number while on calls.