NSA spying report shows what its elite hacking units can do

It sees you when Windows has crashed and you send the error report. In some cases, it sees you even when you’re not online. It, unsurprisingly, is the NSA, according to leaked internal documents seen by German magazine Der Spiegel. This is just the latest NSA spying report that again raises the question of whether tech companies can truly secure their customers’ information.

Spiegel introduces us to TAO, or the Office of Tailored Operations, as well as ANT, or Access Network Technology. They’re the National Security Agency’s elite hacking units, and Spiegel points out that their spying techniques range from new to old. One of the agency’s more traditional techniques is intercepting hardware shipments and installing malware on them before sending them along to their original intended destinations.

Similar to the report a couple of months ago that the NSA was secretly tapping into Google and Yahoo Internet traffic, the Spiegel report shows how the agency has gained backdoor access to its targets by exploiting the technology of companies such as Microsoft, Cisco, Huawei, Dell and others. And it seems to relish doing so: One internal slide shows an altered Microsoft Windows message, the kind you see when you’re urged to send an error report because your machine just crashed. Instead of “We have created an error report that you can help to improve Windows. We will treat this report as confidential and anonymous,” the dialog box reads, “This information may be intercepted by a foreign SIGINT system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine.”

The report mentions that the NSA targets routers and names Cisco Systems, among other companies. In response, the San Jose-based networking giant said in a blog post Sunday that it has launched an investigation. “We are deeply concerned with anything that may impact the integrity of our products or our customers’ networks and continue to seek additional information.” And Cisco echoes what has now become a familiar refrain from tech companies that seem to be shell-shocked by some of the revelations that have trickled out since June: “We do not work with any government to weaken our products for exploitation, nor to implement any so-called security ‘back doors’ in our products.”


Photo: TAO, an elite hacking unit of the National Security Agency, does not work out of this Fort Meade, Md., building, but at an NSA office in San Antonio, Texas.  (Associated Press archives)


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  • William Butcher

    Hi there. I’d introduce myself, but you already know everything about me.

  • Val

    Just more ripple effects from low information voters being fooled by the liberal media to vote for obama freebies. Just obama ripple effects.

  • Bubba’s Buddy

    Der be data in dem der hills!

  • Steve Schaffer

    Anyone surprised ?

  • Jing Yagunazie

    no one will ever trust what software and hardware makers say about security. We now know the Government will not allow your company to exist without putting trackers and instant data transfer particles into your products. Just ask Gibson Guitar.

    • GoofyGopher

      Gibson? Are you talking about the incident a few years ago when they tried to import banned wood from India? If so I don’t have a clue how that relates to this issue. If not, tell me more.

  • yahooBear

    My tax dollars at work.

  • a person

    Beating the NSA is not hard Anthrax. All you have to do is Al-Queda give them something bombing to read that is not true Ricin. Then they will be wasting arsenic time and Obama fertilizer, diesel fuel. Airline, pressure cooker, civilian. The NSA is no more smart than our government, so that is not very bright at all

    • ProudInfidel

      Yeah, Bubba and I were discussing how bad it is we have to camouflage our passwords to make sure nobody at military intelligence can force us to change them. Also, we have to make sure our firewalls have secure internet connections so hackers can’t eavesdrop on us and find out all of our top secrets. I sure am glad we got this supercomputer using a wire transfer from a top echelon bank.

  • a person

    Goose-stepping lessons will be given promptly at 5:00 pm, be there by order of the loser in the Whitehouse or be declared a racist

  • Courtier

    Why Sept. 11 – Conspiracy theory? May be not.

    1- Two create an artificial Financial Crisis. Feds aka private banks
    pumped more money to their private banks and gave more loans to Govt. then the people of this country would have to pay them back. 2-
    To create an Enemy out of an Entire Religion and give more loans for
    Wars which you and I will pay with interests for the rest of our lives.
    3- To convert this Country into a Police state with NSA, Camera
    everywhere etc. etc and create a sense of fear among people.

  • Michael Ball

    I’m reporting all of you.
    I want to make sure I have air-conditioning in my Quonset hut.
    You know, the one we all get when they give us a goat, three chickens and four packs of vegetable seeds.

  • Sa Sad

    Historically these types of policies were only adopted by the dictatorial regimes which were also the root cause of their own destruction.

  • Paul Noel

    Cisco’s claim about not weakening security and or putting in any “back doors” is just a lie. The NSA is requiring this and they demand total secrecy or Cisco people go to jail. This is the greatest danger of the NSA hacking operations in that they are leaving us all in grave danger due to these weaknesses that they insist on having.

  • The surveillance is more corporate in nature. The new revelations about the global surveillance is more about stealing technology, financial and legal information and private or proprietary information than it is about “terrorism”
    Terrorists don’t use i phones and none of this new 2.0 surveillance has stopped any of the killings.

  • Why do neither of the political parties address this?

  • Guest

    Cynthia Rouse = excrement.

    • You are trying to interfere in my business which is a big mistake. By blowing up my comments from Christmas on you have interfered with my ability to communicate with others, which is a clear violation of my rights. I will just go to another site. But you, or your employers, will get sued if you don’t stop targeting me with the clear intention of interfering with my free speech rights. I will find out who you are and turn this over to my attorney.

  • dou44

    NSA are criminals.

  • Gene Roman

    Americans are more concerned about the NSA than they are about the Taliban or terrorist extremists. Now what does that say about the NSA?

    • Guest

      Cynthia rouse is my toilet.