Is this real life or a generic Hollywood thriller about
secretive, all-powerful governments? A new report based on leaked
NSA documents details how the agency intercepts laptops
purchased online, re-routes them to secret warehouses, and installs
The report comes from Der Spiegel, one
of Germany’s largest news weeklies. According to the
If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or
related accessories, for example, TAO [a division of the NSA
responsible for hacking] can divert the shipping delivery to its
own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At
these so-called “load stations,” agents carefully open the package
in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install
hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the
intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted
from the comfort of a remote computer.
The division tasked with installing spyware – Tailored Access
Operations (TAO) – allegedly works in conjunction with the CIA and
FBI to locate and ultimately spy on targets.
It is still unclear exactly who the agency is spying
on: the NSA documents
don’t provide information on the scope of the program or who is
subject to being targeted. In an interview with Der
Spiegel, NSA officials issued a statement claiming that TAO’s
“work is centered on computer network exploitation in support of
foreign intelligence collection.” However, given the NSA’s history
of dishonesty regarding its domestic surveillance, it could be
premature to assume that the agency is only installing spyware on
foreign targets’ devices.
One document revealed that these operations rank among the
agency’s “most productive.”
These revelations come in light of a security expert’s
presentation to German computer scientists on how easily the NSA
could hack into iPhones and turn it into a spying device. He
called it “wrist-slittingly depressing.”
NSA officials did not respond to specific questions about the
agency’s practices or mission.
Earlier this week, the
ACLU sued for details on the NSA’s surveillance activities and
what protections it affords to Americans.
from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/31/nsa-installing-spyware-on-laptops