NSA planted surveillance software on hard drives, report saysFebruary 17, 2015 – 6:10 PM
The National Security Agency is able to infect hard drives with surveillance software to spy on computers, Reuters said on Tuesday, citing information from cyber researchers and former NSA operatives.
In a new report, Kaspersky revealed the existence of a group dubbed The Equation Group capable of directly accessing the firmware of hard drives from Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, IBM, Micron, Samsung and other drive makers. As such, the group has been able to implant spyware on hard drives to conduct surveillance on computers around the world.
In a blog posted on Monday, Kaspersky said this threat has been around for almost 20 years and “surpasses anything known in terms of complexity and sophistication of techniques.” The security researcher called the group “unique almost in every aspect of their activities: they use tools that are very complicated and expensive to develop, in order to infect victims, retrieve data and hide activity in an outstandingly professional way, and utilize classic spying techniques to deliver malicious payloads to the victims.”
Surveillance software implanted on hard drives is especially dangerous as it becomes active each time the PC boots up and thus can infect the computer over and over again without the user’s knowledge. Though this type of spyware could have surfaced on a “majority of the world’s computers,” Kaspersky cited thousands or possibly tens of thousands of infections across 30 different countries.