A recent photo from classified National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden and released to coincide with Glenn Greenwald’s new book provides a glimpse at NSA’s Tailored Access Operations division — where the agency intercepts retail-grade networking equipment to secretly implant bugs and other tracking systems.
According to Greenwald’s latest NSA revelations, the signals intelligence agency routinely infected off-the-shelf networking technology with spyware, including hardware from popular network developer Cisco.
The photo depicts casually dressed techs carefully opening and unpacking boxes, plugging the machines into a workstation, and uploading. Hardware implants, which require physically opening up the tech to plant bugs, were also conducted.
“In one recent case, after several months a beacon implanted through supply-chain interdiction called back to the NSA covert infrastructure,” An NSA user wrote describing the program’s effectiveness. “The call back provided us access to further exploit the device and survey the network.”
Leaks detailing similar NSA practices revealed at the end of last year implied shipping companies like FedEx and UPS were likely aware of the agency’s efforts to spy through privately owned computer hardware.