Modern personal computers crash all the time, and whenever a Windows computer hits an error, it invites you to send an “error report” to Microsoft, who promises to keep the data “confidential and anonymous,” and use the information therein to fix the bugs. In newer versions, a user can set this up so that instead of asking every time, the crash data is just sent automatically.
The error reports are yet another thing the NSA is hoovering up en masse, and with IP addresses and other unique identifiers attached, can learn a lot about your computer’s hardware and software.
While this would be relatively innocuous in and of itself, the reports also provide some of the first data the NSA needs to know about your computer to install viruses or other malware to spy on you more directly.
Microsoft retains the lion’s share of the computer desktop market, and its products appear a particularly popular target for the NSA, which can install malware on your system through a simple Internet Explorer exploit.
And while this is obviously a bigger problem for Microsoft users, crash reporting tools exist for OSX and other operating systems as well, and even if they aren’t necessarily as vulnerable to attack, the data about those systems are no doubt being collected by the NSA as well.