The National Security Agency (NSA) reportedly intercepted computer deliveries for Americans, placed hacking devices inside the operating systems and sent the computers to customers — all without their knowledge or a warrant.
The German news site Der Spiegel reports that the NSA's hacker group, Tailored Access Operations (TAO), performed the secret bugging.
The sources for the story include internal NSA documents and an unidentified intelligence official who said the TAO gathered "some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen."
The TAO would track a target ordering a new computer or tech accessories, intercept the hardware with help from the CIA and FBI, and take the computer to a secret workshop where spying software would be placed inside, noted the Associated Press.
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One NSA document said that secretly intercepting computers is one of the NSA's "most productive operations."
The TAO also spied on people via Microsoft crash reports, which are meant to help Microsoft engineers improve their programming.
The TAO would go through the crash reports to help it's hackers break into Americans' PC computers using Windows.
One NSA document reportedly joked: "This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint (signals intelligence) system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine."
Der Spiegel did not say where its NSA documents came from, but it has previously published documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
Some of the TAO's high tech devices spying included computer monitor cables that recorded words typed by the user across the screen, USB sticks with radio transmitters that broadcasted stolen information and fake base stations that intercepted cell phone signals.
The TAO took advantage of weaknesses in hardware and software manufactured by Cisco Systems, Huawei Technologies, Western Digital Corp, Microsoft and Dell computers.