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Meet TAO, the NSA Unit That 'Gets the Ungettable'

Meet TAO, the NSA Unit That 'Gets the Ungettable'

(NEWSER– Another big NSA revelation, this one courtesy of Germany's der Spiegel: The magazine yesterday reported that American spies intercept computer deliveries, exploit hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijack Microsoft's internal reporting system to spy on their targets. Der Spiegel's revelations relate to a division of the NSA known as Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, which is painted as an elite team of hackers specializing in stealing data from the toughest of targets. Citing internal NSA documents, the magazine said that TAO's mission was "Getting the ungettable," and quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying that TAO had gathered "some of the most significant intelligence our country has ever seen." Among the methods used:

  • Der Spiegel said TAO had a catalog of James Bond-style spy gear for particularly hard-to-crack cases, including computer monitor cables specially modified to record what is being typed across the screen, USB sticks secretly fitted with radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over the airwaves, and fake base stations intended to intercept mobile phone signals on the go.
 

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