Paying RSA $10 million to push their deliberately faulty encryption tools or wiretapping undersea data cables are certainly well within the NSA’s normal routine of surveillance, but today’s revelations on the agency reveal considerably less graceful efforts as well.
With a lot of electronics relatively secure without physical access to the devices, the NSA has now taken to “intercepting” peoples’ online orders of electronics just so it can install backdoors and other surveillance devices before they’re ever delivered.
How common this process is remains unclear, but the NSA claims the right to do this to “targets,” and has argued at one time or another that literally everyone is a conceivable target. Some of the schemes are remarkably cheap and likely fairly common.
Common enough, at least, that the NSA had a whole “catalog” made up of the different devices and what they cost, including a particularly cost-effective compromised HDMI cable that can show the NSA everything on your computer monitor, in real time, for about $30.
Compromise tools exist for electronics across the spectrum, from monitor cables and networking devices to hard drive firmware and even cell phone towers. Any electronics shipped could theoretically have been scooped up by the NSA en route and be surveilling you right now.