Ready for another juicy NSA spying revelation? All right, here goes. According to the latest report by The Guardian, the National Security Agency implants backdoor tools in routers exported from the United States. The NSA then uses those tools to conduct network surveillance.
A June 2010 report from the head of the NSA's Access and Target Development department is shockingly explicit. The NSA routinely receives – or intercepts – routers, servers and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers.
The agency then implants backdoor surveillance tools, repackages the devices with a factory seal and sends them on. The NSA thus gains access to entire networks and all their users. The document gleefully observes that some "SIGINT tradecraft … is very hands-on (literally!)".
The document reportedly goes on to mention one instance of a router phoning home to the NSA several months after being implanted with spying tools. "This call back provided us access to further exploit the device and survey the network," the document allegedly states.
As the Guardian points out, this news comes on the heels of repeated allegations by the U.S. government that Chinese-built hardware contains backdoors used by the Chinese government. The House Intelligence Committee went so far as to advise private companies in the U.S. not to do business with two Chinese telecommunications equipment firms, Huawei and ZTE, on those grounds that they "cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence."