The TAO of the NSA: Specialized Hacking Team Gets the ‘Ungettable’



The U.S. National Security Agency uses a specialized team of hackers to break into computer hardware and exploit loopholes in software like Microsoft’s internal reporting system, according to a new report.

German magazine Der Spiegel published an extensive story on Sunday, based on a cache of NSA documents, detailing the Tailored Access Operations (TAO). The unit’s mission is described as “getting the ungettable” by using James Bond–like methods, including computer-monitor cables specially designed to record typing in real time, USB sticks containing radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over airwaves, intercepting laptops before they’re delivered and faux base stations set up to intercept mobile-phone signals.

The unit, formed in 1997, has hacked 258 targets in nearly every country in the world, according to Der Spiegel.

The team also steals data by exploiting Internet and software vulnerabilities in companies like Cisco Systems and China’s Huawei Technologies. One of the more…

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