Der Spiegel reports on the NSA's "plumbers" at the Office of Tailored Access Operations, who collect and deploy exploits to infiltrate computers and even redirect shipments so they can install malware and hardware backdoors on electronics ordered by those they are targeting.
Jacob Appelbaum [AKA ioerror] reports
on the NSA's 'catalog', which ranges from $30 monitor cables that send back screenshots, to exploits for network security hardware from Cisco and Huawei, to backdoored BIOS code and firmware for all major hard drive manucfacturers.
While some of the NSA's malware requires physical access or proximity, much of it is remotely installable over the Internet.
At the 30c3 conference in Hamburg,
Appelbaum gives an in-depth talk about the NSA's Tailored Access Operations hacking activities
and its 'interdiction' process, whereby computers are tampered with during shipping or as part of a 'black-bag' operation.
Appelbaum, a Wikileaks affiliate who has reported on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, has been personally targeted
by such operations, as have his family members.
"Making journalism harder, slower and less secure
, throwing sand in the gears, is fully within the capacity of the surveillance state. It has the means, the will and the latitude to go after journalism the way it went after terrorism... Only if they can turn a mostly passive public into a more active one can journalists come out ahead in this fight. I know they don’t think of mobilization as their job, and there are good reasons for that, but they didn’t think editors would be destroying hard drives under the gaze of the authorities, either! Journalism almost has to be brought closer to activism to stand a chance of prevailing in its current struggle with the state." [more inside]