According to Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker, the NSA has managed to insert spying software on most computer hard drives.
The program is hidden on hard drives manufactured by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, Reuters reports.
Kaspersky did not pinpoint the country responsible for the software, but said it is closely related to Stuxnet, the cyber weapon developed by the Americans and the Israelis, with help from the Germans and the British.
Stuxnet was used to sabotage Iran’s effort to enrich uranium for its nuclear program.
However, in addition to setting back Iran’s nuclear program, the sophisticated malware engineered by the U.S. and Israel at the Dimona complex in the Negev desert was exploited to push for restrictive cybersecurity measures in the United States.
A former NSA employee told the news agency the NSA values the hard drive spy program as much as Stuxnet.
Kaspersky said its research discovered the program on personal computers in 30 countries. Most of the infections were on computers in Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria.
Although Kaspersky said the targets include government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, it is not unreasonable to conclude it is used to spy on American citizens engaged in political activity the establishment considers threatening.
In July of last year journalist Glenn Greenwald revealed the NSA has targeted a number of political activists for surveillance.
“I have long viewed this as one of the most important stories in the Snowden archive because it puts a face on the NSA’s surveillance overreach and illustrates, yet again — that domestic spying abuses usually target minorities, marginalized groups, and dissidents,” Greenwald said.