Just when we thought the NSA's shady spying antics couldn't get any worse, it turns out that the agency stooped even lower than we previously thought possible.

Two articles published by German newspaper Der Spiegel allege that, among other things, the NSA's notorious ultra-elite hacking department, TAO, routinely intercepts laptops and other electronics bought online and embeds them with surveillance bugs. According to Edward Snowden files, TAO has access to a catalog that lists digital equipment that has NSA hardware and software backdoors, and accordingly targets them for insertion with malware and "hardware USBs" granting remote access to the electronics in question.

The list of compromised devices includes storage hardware from Seagate, Western Digital, Maxtor and Samsung, networking tools from Huawei and Cisco, and certain unidentified Dell products. The report also alleges that the NSA uses Windows bug reports to hack into devices to obtain data and exert remote control.

According to the report, the NSA works in cooperation with the FBI and the CIA to physically intercept electronics they 've targeted for spying, including the use of FBI jets to fly NSA employees to locations from which they can insert malware or malicious hardware. "This gets them to their destination at the right time and can help them to disappear again undetected after even as little as a half hour's work," according to Der Spiegel.

The scope of the spying and targets is unclear, and the report does not give any indication that the hardware manufacturers in question were aware of the program. Still, the allegations are alarming to say the least.

[via The Verge]