In case you weren't scared enough of the reach of the US National Security Agency, reports coming out of Germany are accusing the intelligence agency of literally seizing shipments of computers, installing malware and sometimes even hardware bugs on them.
The allegations have been published by German news site Der Spiegel, and are reportedly based on internal NSA documents. They claim that the NSA's "Tao" hacking unit, "the intelligence agency's top secret weapon", has not only been installing these surveillance measures on the freshly-purchased laptops of "a target person", but that they've also been successful in tapping the fibre undersea cables that connect the world's internet.
"If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops" the report says. "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."
Not one of the companies whose gear was being hijacked said they were aware of the NSA's actions.
A second Der Spiegel report blows the lid on a "catalogue" that NSA agents have access to, from which they can order spy gear that costs up to $US250,000.
Inside TAO: Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking Unit [Der Spiegel]