The United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) has discovered a way to hide surveillance software deep inside the firmware of computer hard-drives, according to alarming new reports on Monday.
Based on revelations from the security experts at Kaspersky Labs, Reuters sources claim the NSA is placing spyware within drives from the likes of Western Digital, Seagate and Toshiba.
The worms enable the NSA to steal files or eavesdrop on infected machines as soon as they're connected to the internet, according to the report.
Moscow-based Kaspersky uncovered a host of sophisticated spying programs closely linked to the NSA’s Stuxnet cyberweapon used to attack Iran in the past.
While Kaspersky stopped short of naming the NSA as the culprits (Reuters did not) it said the techniques - used by the so-called Equation Group - had resulted in the discovery of malware within PCs in 30 countries.
Those nations included Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and other middle eastern countries. The infections mainly targeted governments and military institutions, as well as communications companies, nuclear researchers, the media and Islamic activists.
“…only now Kaspersky Lab’s experts can confirm they have discovered a threat actor that surpasses anything known in terms of complexity and sophistication of techniques, and that has been active for almost two decades – The Equation Group,” the company said in a report published on Monday.
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The NSA has declined to comment on the reports, which are sure to deal a further blow to the United States' efforts to play down the global surveillance controversy exposed by Edward Snowden.