To hack into your Samsung TV, the CIA isn’t breaking into your house. They’re hacking it when you order on Amazon.


That’s what Edward Snowden pointed out during an interview on Tuesday with The Intercept.

The interview was taped live at SXSW for the podcast Intercepted.

The CIA’s efforts to hack the microphones of voice-connected Samsung TVs was one of the most widespread takeaways of Wikileaks’ Vault 7 document dump a week ago. But the hack wasn’t the fault of the vulnerable Internet of Things. Instead, it required hacking TVs with a USB stick.

“People say, the CIA’s not going to be breaking into my house,” Snowden said via video from Russia.

“That’s true — but they don’t go into your house. They wait for when these devices are being shipped to you, when you order them on Amazon or whatever. They go to them at the airports, they get the box, they used a little hairdryer to soften the adhesive, they open the box, then they put the USB stick in. They seal the box back up all nice and perfect, and then they ship it on to you. And now your router, your computer, your TV is hacked. This is a very routine thing that happens.”

Snowden added that the hack could be used on a device on its way to a region with a nuclear facility, to an office or location connected to a political party, or to a newsroom.

“This is a method they apply to many different things,” he said. “These are the kind of causes for concern.”

Snowden also discussed President Donald Trump’s unsupported claims that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower — which he said could be true in some roundabout way, given the extent of government surveillance — and why these sorts of claims are nothing new, even though it seems worse now.

“This is actually not new. What is different is they are so inept that we see it,” he said of the Trump administration. 

And even though Snowden said the Obama White House could have wiretapped Trump associates, he didn’t side with Trump.

“The problem is not poor Donald Trump,” he said. “You’re the president. You should be asking, ‘Why is this possible in the first place?'”

— Video

Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983) is an American computer professional, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, and former contractor for the United States government, who copied and leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013 without prior authorization. His disclosures revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance, with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments.

In 2013, Snowden was hired by an NSA contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, after previous employment with Dell and the CIA. On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii, and in early June he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill. Snowden came to international attention after stories based on the material appeared in The Guardian and The Washington Post. Further disclosures were made by other publications including Der Spiegel and The New York Times.

On June 21, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed charges against Snowden of two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property. On June 23, he flew to Moscow, Russia, where he remained for over one month. Russian authorities granted him asylum for one year, which was later extended to three years. As of 2016, he was still living in an undisclosed location in Russia while seeking asylum elsewhere. His asylum has as of January 18, 2017 been renewed for a further 3 years, until 2020.

A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a traitor and a patriot. His disclosures have fueled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy.



(Emma HinchliffeMar for Mashable contributed to this report “Edward Snowden shows how the CIA is breaking into your house by hacking your Samsung TV”, edited to fit the page and added additional material including illustrations by Alad Von Dari via VOP)