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By far the biggest revelation of 2013 was that of the U.S. government's overreaching National Security Agency (NSA) and its PRISM surveillance program. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the government's ability to spy on various forms of communication by leaking several documents to the press, and since doing so, new information keeps coming out. One of the most recent reports claims the NSA routinely intercepts computer deliveries in order to exploit vulnerabilities to aid with spying.
Citing a German magazine, The Washington Post reports that a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO) specializing in intercepting data from tough targets, or "getting the ungettable." TAO has access to all kinds of goods to help do that, such as computer monitor cables designed to record what's being typed across the screen, fake base stations that intercept mobile phone signals, and the list goes on.
Planting these items sometimes involves intercepting computer pacakges, according to the report. In addition, TAO also installs spyware in order to track and spy on specific targets. According to one document, intercepting computer equipment ranks as one of the NSA's "most productive operations."
A related report in The Daily Dot that cites the same German magazine says the NSA can also snoop on almost every communication sent from an iPhone. According to the report, leaked documents reveal the NSA plants spyware on iOS devices with a 100 percent success rate. It's part of a program called DROPOUTJEEP and it allows the NSA to read SMS messages, access contact lists, locate a phone using cell tower data, and activate the device's microphone and camera.