NSA Reported Intercepting PC Shipments To Install Spyware

Of all the National Security Agency headlines from the past couple of weeks, the most prominent has been use of the FBI and CIA to intercept shipments of PCs and other electronics gear to install spyware. The reports raise a bit of irony, as the U.S. has warned that China has done the same thing by installing so-called backdoors on Huawei devices.

The latest revelations surfaced over the weekend in a report by Der Spiegel, a German news magazine. While the story cites NSA documents, it does not specifically name former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden as the source.

Office of Tailored Access Operations

The Der Spiegel report details the NSA's use of a special task force called the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is more capable of carrying out these blatant security attacks. Based upon prior documents, it seems as though the NSA generally relies on passive spying to attain its massive collection of data, but in some situations, TAO takes over when those passive activities are not enough.

"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," Der Spiegel said. Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Dell, Seagate, Western Digital, Maxtor, Samsung, and Huawei, were all named in the magazine's report.

TAO documents counted 279 operations globally in which the task force was actively involved in 2010. Laptop and desktop computers and their accessories were a primary target, with shipments intercepted through the help of the FBI and CIA so that spyware could be installed, but the documents cited other targets successfully penetrated, including an underwater communications cable network and Mexico's security service.

While the report did not directly implicate the named companies in any sort of scandal, some executives are already accepting the...

Comments are closed.