WEIRD AL?

The CIA has some truly bizarre codenames for its hacking tools

Today, WikiLeaks released a massive trove of files from what it claims to be the CIA’s cyberintelligence arm. The non-profit alleges that its files show that the US’s foreign intelligence service has developed a suite of hacking tools to snoop on cellphones, computers, and even smart-televisions, without users knowing they’re being watched.

One of the most shocking parts of this revelation is the list of CIA names for its alleged hacking projects: Some are exactly what you’d expect from a covert US covert agency, such as “BaldEagle,” or “Hornet.” Others are truly amazing. There’s “MaddeningWhispers,” “MagicVikings,” and “Weeping Angel”—all of which sound like cards you might play in Magic: The Gathering. A few are named after internet memes, like “Philosoraptor” and “Candy Mountain,” and one seems to derive from the “Frog Prince” of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

Here’s the full list of the CIA’s desperate attempts at creativity:

Project names
YarnBall
SnowyOwl
HarpyEagle
GreenPacket
QuarkMatter
Weeping Angel
Pterodactyl
Cotton Candy
Gyrfalcon
CRUCIBLE
Hive
Sparrowhawk
MaddeningWhispers
BaldEagle
Bee Sting
HyenasHurdle BSOD
Flash Bang
Magical Mutt
Melomy DriveIn
RickyBobby
Fight Club
Taxman
Rain Maker
Basic Bit
ConnectifyMe
Fine Dining
HammerDrill
Tomahawk
CandyMountain
Grasshopper
MagicVikings
AntHill
Galleon
Assassin
HercBeetle
Frog Prince
Hornet
The Gibson
Cascade
Caterpillar
JQJHENDRICK
Improvise
AfterMidnight
Packrat
RoidRage
Cocoon
Philosoraptor
Marble Framework
Kraken
Tremor

One page in the WikiLeaks release appears to be a CIA developers’ thoughts on future tool names, many from a website called TV Tropes that outlines actions and phrases in movies and TV shows. One idea also references comic musician Weird Al Yankovic’s lesser-known song, “Albuquerque,” from the 1999 album Running With Scissors. The developer writes:

Just a list of tool names I would very much like to use at some point because they are awesome. These are mostly oblique references to things I like, tvtropes names that amuse me and situations or phrases at work encoded in toolname-esque obscurity.

  • Mendicant Engineer – reserved for the next tool delivered during a gov’t shutdown.
  • Starving Weasel – reference to the Weird Al song Albuquerque; “Hey, you’ve got weasels on your face”
  • Face Hugger – Aliens
  • Eldritch Abomination – tvtropes
  • Xanatos Gambit – tvtropes
  • Deadpan Snarker – tvtropes
  • Combat Pragmatist – tvtropes
  • Awesome McToolname – tvtropes
  • Chekhovs Gun – tvtropes
  • Humongous Mecha – tvtropes
  • Literal Genie – tvtropes
  • Monster Clown – tvtropes
  • Confused Undertaking
  • Discharge Tempest
  • Agonizing Neuralgia
  • Chronic Arthralgia
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