That’s what the Germans are saying. Here’s the report.

Via The Verge.

According to a new report from Der Spiegel based on internal NSA documents, the signals intelligence agency’s elite hacking unit (TAO) is able to conduct sophisticated wiretaps in ways that make Hollywood fantasy look more like reality. The report indicates that the NSA, in collaboration with the CIA and FBI, routinely and secretly intercepts shipping deliveries for laptops or other computer accessories in order to implant bugs before they reach their destinations. According to Der Spiegel, the NSA’s TAO group is able to divert shipping deliveries to its own “secret workshops” in a method called interdiction, where agents load malware onto the electronics or install malicious hardware that can give US intelligence agencies remote access.

While the report does not indicate the scope of the program, or who the NSA is targeting with such wiretaps, it’s a unique look at the agency’s collaborative efforts with the broader intelligence community to gain hard access to communications equipment. One of the products the NSA appears to use to compromise target electronics is codenamed COTTONMOUTH, and has been available since 2009; it’s a USB “hardware implant” that secretly provides the NSA with remote access to the compromised machine.

This tool, among others, is available to NSA agents through what Der Spiegel describes as a mail-order spy catalog. The report indicates that the catalog offers backdoors into the hardware and software of the most prominent technology makers, including Cisco, Juniper Networks, Dell, Seagate, Western Digital, Maxtor, Samsung, and Huawei. Many of the targets are American companies. The report indicates that the NSA can even exploit error reports from Microsoft’s Windows operating system; by intercepting the error reports and determining what’s wrong with a target’s computer, the NSA can then attack it with Trojans or other malware.

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14 Comments | Leave a comment
  1. strider says:

    What terrorist cell is communicating with anything that could be tapped? (Other than with misleading info). I believe our own newspapers taught them that half a decade ago, revealing mobile phone intercepts and international financial records tracking in an effort to cause embarrassment and throw sand in the gears during a Republican administration.

  2. ConservativeSue says:

    Wonder how many computing devices or phones were Christmas gifts that were delivered late? We won’t know unless Amazon, UPS, and FedEx releases the information. Why should Amazon, UPS, and FedEx have to reimburse the customer when Congress knew what NSA was doing? Congress or NSA needs to reimburse the customer. Going to the local Walmart to buy a tablet doesn’t seem appealing at the moment knowing there’s a NSA bug pre-installed. 🙁 A certain person living in the WH is laughing all the way to the bank. 🙁

  3. Alain41 says:

    If NSA is installing malware on intercepted laptops, I strongly doubt that it is only spyware. Kill switch on gov’t command, anyone?

  4. If the NSA is actually doing this then it logically follows that they have the cooperation of both UPS and FedEx. That might be bad for public relations.

  5. TheGreenHornet says:

    So, we’re shocked to find out that they are thieves too? Someone call Mulder and Scully. Where’s the cigarette smoking man? NSA: it’s not just for terrorists anymore. It’s for you.

  6. 1ntbtn says:

    All of them, creeps, criminals, and liars!!! We are in for a bumpy ride.

  7. Kitten says:

    Isn’t it true that all the gadgets used in the James Bond movies really exist? I think we would all shudder to find out what the gubmint is really doing to us, and our “Constitutional” rights. We are constantly being raped in our sleep (the average American is clueless to the criminal acts being perpetrated on them every single day by this regime). I find it funny that the NSA, CIA, & FBI can all work together to stick it to us, but tracking down and bringing terrorists to justice, not so much.

  8. PopArt says:

    Guess I’m going to continue my long standing practice of buying my PCs in-store.

  9. Dave says:

    So this is what living in America is like. The whole damn system is the Gestapo or Spector or Big Brother or whatever you want to call. Government against the people. Its like living in a 1950’s B rated movie about losing our liberty to some unknown force. Except we can’t walk out when the movie ends.

  10. podgorney says:

    The company my wife works for rents warehouse space at various Fed-ex hubs around the country where they store the more popular products so they can insure overnight delivery.
    I could see as a scenario where warehouses their top 10 selling laptops at various Ed-Fex shipping hubs; what’s not to say that with what we now know of the NSA that perhaps they too could rent some space at various Ed-Fex shipping hubs where they could access’s inventory and do what ever it is that they do and still ensure prompt delivery?

  11. Maynard says:

    Setting aside strange reports, the fundamental point to be aware of is that devices that used to be stupid-simple have become extremely sophisticated, and the trend is accelerating. Household appliances are more and more autonomous, and they respond to external commands. For example, your new Smart Meter reports your electricity usage in real time, and the central station can communicate through it to cycle down your climate control. At this point that can’t be done without your permission, but you see the infrastructure being put in place that can transform or evolve into an Orwellian environment. I’m not saying the wave of technology is bad; just noting it’s a wonderful servant and a terrible master. Self-driving cars are coming, which will be great — but you know the police will have an override, and if you’re wanted, your car will lock the doors and drive you down to the station. Your car will report everywhere you’ve gone, just as your appliances will report their usage patterns.

    It’s a strange world we’re building. This is not Obama’s creation; it’s vastly bigger than Obama. The problem with Obama isn’t that he made this problem; it’s that, in times like these, we really need to have some trust of the government if the nation is to survive. And when the government is overtly hostile to its people and lies to them endlessly and blatantly, that trust is forfeit.

  12. handsofmajic says:

    Interesting that we think the government would go through such difficult methods to access our electronic devices. Has anyone looked at the label of the mentioned devices? Is there any electronic device anywhere in America that is not meeting a whole list of FCC & other Federal licensing requirements? Another thought . . . Have you looked at the motherboard and chips on said electronic devices? Wouldn’t it be much easier to simply place a program in the motherboard (per some code/license) or in one of the many chips on the board that US government agencies can access whenever they want? Oh, on the motherboard and chips I think you will find more labels stating that they have meet a number of additional US Government requirements.

  13. handsofmajic says:

    Sorry, I tried to correct spelling errors but my post appears to be spam

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