A mysterious “glitch” on X reportedly gave outside forces the power to hijack the CIA, allowing potential saboteurs the ability to take over the agency’s messaging.
The BBC is reporting that an “ethical hacker” has taken advantage of a glitch on the CIA official X account, hijacking a channel that is used to ostensibly recruit spies. The oversight could have cost informants their lives if hostile entities had successfully exploited it.
The cyber-security researcher hijacked a link on the X account that sends individuals to a Telegram channel that is meant for informants. Kevin McSheehan allegedly found a way to redirect that link on the CIA X channel to his own Telegram channel.
“The CIA really dropped the ball here,” McSheehan, 37, said.
So, the CIA was potentially delivering people right into enemy hands with possibly fatal consequences.
— Misneach ho/hum PRACTICINGCatholic PhD Codology (@saint_justice) October 18, 2023
The calling card of the CIA is its efforts and capabilities to gather intelligence from a vast, cultivated network of spies and informants around the world. Many times, that is done via the Internet. The agency’s social media account has nearly 3.5 million followers and is used to further national security, except it is evidently not secure.
McSheehan, who is a resident of Maine, claimed that he found the security flaw on Tuesday.
“My immediate thought was panic,” he said according to the BBC.
“I saw that the official Telegram link they were sharing could be hijacked – and my biggest fear was that a country like Russia, China, or North Korea could easily intercept Western intelligence,” McSheehan pointed out.
A glitch conveniently exposing covert channels? Interesting how tech hiccups align with intel interests.
— imhodler (@iamhodler_) October 17, 2023
“At some point after 27 September, the CIA had added to its X profile page a link – https://t.me/securelycontactingcia – to its Telegram channel containing information about contacting the organization on the dark net and through other secretive means,” the BBC noted.
“Our global mission demands that individuals be able to reach out to CIA securely from anywhere,” the CIA stated in Russian.
The channel also ironically warned potential recruits to “be wary of any channels that claim to represent the CIA.”
“But a flaw in how X displays some links meant the full web address had been truncated to https://t.me/securelycont – an unused Telegram username,” the BBC wrote.
“As soon as Mr McSheehan noticed the issue, he registered the username so anyone clicking on the link was directed to his own channel, which warned them not to share any secret or sensitive information,” the media outlet continued.
Please tell me the CIA isn’t using twitter and telegram to communicate
— MamaBear AZ (@walkitback23) October 18, 2023
“I did it as a security precaution,” the researcher contended. “It’s a problem with the X site that I’ve seen before – but I was amazed to see the CIA hadn’t noticed.”
A foreign nation, specifically one hostile to the US, could use the Telegram tag to acquire intelligence intended for the CIA, the researcher argued.
McSheehan told Business Insider in an interview that “a multitude of attacks could have taken place” if he had not intervened.
“It needed to be locked down ASAP,” he told Business Insider.
McSheehan also commended the CIA for quickly fixing the flaw after he notified them of it.