What is WikiLeaks’ CouchPotato dump? New release shows how CIA hacks and steals video streams
WikiLeaks has published the alleged user guide of yet another CIA hacking tool, as part of its Vault 7 data dump series. Dubbed CouchPotato, the alleged CIA project reveals how the agency’s spies can remotely hack and steal video streams. Similar to other CIA hacking tools made public by WikiLeaks, CouchPotato also targets devices using Windows OS.
According to WikiLeaks, the CouchPotato project differs from its previous dump Dumbo, which allegedly revealed how the CIA could mute microphones and disrupt webcam video recordings. While Dumbo required the physical addresses of targeted devices, in order to hack webcams, in comparison, CouchPotato can remotely hack video streams.
“CouchPotato is a remote tool for collection against RTSP/H.264 video streams. It provides the ability to collect either the stream as a video file (AVI) or capture still images (JPG) of frames from the stream that is of significant change from a previously captured frame,” the leaked user guide states.
According to WikiLeaks, CouchPotato targets IP-based surveillance cameras that generally stream videos over the internet or within a closed network. The tool can also be allegedly used without compromising a target’s network, given that the operator has the URLs of the video streams. In other words, spies could hack and steal data without alerting victims about the intrusion.
The alleged CIA hacking tool can also save video streams, either in AVI format or as JPEG images, onto disks. CouchPotato is also allegedly capable of detecting, analysing and saving frames from a video stream that are substantially different from a previous frame, focusing on only those frames when an object has moved. This means that the tool can eliminate video frames that don’t include any movements, focusing only on those that reveal some activity.
However, one major disadvantage of using the hacking tool involves the draining of CPU core processes. According to WikiLeaks, CIA’s tests of CouchPotato showed that the tool can deplete around 50% to 70% of a computer’s resources.
The hacking tool dates back to February 2014, indicating that the spy agency may have used it for several years. However, the leaked user guide only details CouchPotatos very first version. It is unclear if the CIA updated the tool since its creation and whether other, more sophisticated versions of the hacking tool exist.