A new report by German news outlet Der Spiegel claims that the intelligence agency’s elite hacking unit, TAO, has been conducting intrusive wiretaps that would make your typical sci-fi movie seem realistic.
According to the report, the NSA has been intercepting shipping deliveries for laptops and other computer accessories purchased online in order to secretly install spyware before they reach their final destination. The NSA works in collaboration with the CIA and FBI to divert hardware to its own “secret workshops” for bugging in a process called interdiction, which gives agents remote access to these machines. The TAO operations often require physical access to targets, sometimes using FBI jets to plant the wiretaps. “This gets them to their destination at the right time and can help them to disappear again undetected after even as little as a half hour’s work,” the Der Spiegel report notes.
Through its findings, however, Der Spiegel isn’t able to elaborate on the scope of the program or who the NSA is targeting with these wiretaps. Let’s just hope these are legal warrant-issued raids and surveillance efforts, as the NSA is already under a ton of scrutiny from the public, Congress and general privacy advocates who have been crying over the NSA’s extended reach into citizens’ privacy for quite some time. The latest report also indicates other NSA backdoors into hardware and software applications available through some of the most popular technology makers like Dell, Cisco, Juniper Networks, Seagate, Western Digital, Maxtor and Samsung. Also, the NSA can supposedly intercept error logs from Microsoft’s Windows OS to exploit vulnerabilities in a target computer to hack into it with custom Trojans or other spyware.
Have you bought a new computer recently? Do you think you’ve been bugged?