The National Security Agency’s (NSA) surreptitious surveillance activities are staggeringly alarming in their scope and size. The more you learn about them, the more you’re filled with implacable repugnance. All the agency does, it seems, is try and figure out new ways to stalk people with its perennially askance gaze. But in case you are not done being disgusted and alarmed by the many NSA excesses exposed by Edward Snowden, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the NSA surveillance story in 2013, has published a 272-page book that contains a number of “never-before-seen documents entrusted to him by Snowden himself.”
Among the fresh documents released with Greenwald’s book, called No Place to Hide, is an article that sheds light on how the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit goes about planting backdoors in servers, routers and other such devices.
According to Ars Technica, the said document, an article from a June 2010 internal newsletter, also includes a few ocular treats for its readers. One of the photographs included with the article shows NSA employees carefully unpacking a Cisco router from its shipping carton in order to install “beacon implants.”
“Here’s how it works: shipments of computer network devices (servers, routers, etc,) being delivered to our targets throughout the world are intercepted,” reads the article. “Next, they are redirected to a secret location where Tailored Access Operations/Access Operations (AO-S326) employees, with the support of the Remote Operations Center (S321), enable the installation of beacon implants directly into our targets’ electronic devices. These devices are then re-packaged and placed back into transit to the original destination. All of this happens with the support of Intelligence Community partners and the technical wizards in TAO.”