Many of the National Security Agency’s spying programs are now out in the open, courtesy of highly classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Recently Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who has worked with Snowden on these revelations, brought even more leaks to the forefront. Citing classified documents it was reported that the NSA intercepts networking equipment being exported out of the U.S. to plant backdoors. Photos of one such secret facility have now been leaked.
The pictures are part of a document leaked with the trove released with Greenwald’s new book about Snowden’s story. Apparently there’s a separate unit at the NSA that deals with interception and planting of backdoors. Called Tailored Access Operations, the unit intercepts networking equipment like routers and servers and redirects them to a secret location.
At the location TAO employees get to work with support from NSA’s Remote Operations Center. Packages are opened carefully and then “beacon implants” are installed on target devices at a “load station.” Once the backdoor is planted the devices are repackaged and factory seals replaced before they’re placed back in transit to the original destination.
This gives NSA unadulterated access to networks all around the world. The equipment might be used by civilians, corporations or even governments without the knowledge that there’s a backdoor pre-installed in the equipment. The U.S. has long accused Chinese companies of similar behavior, particularly naming ZTE and Huawei, alleging that their products might allow the Chinese government to spy on people.