For years, the US government has warned the world about the dangers of Chinese-made networking equipment, claiming that they contained secret backdoors that allowed surveillance. In fact a House of Representatives committee report from 2012 claimed that two Chinese technology companies, Huawai and ZTE posed a national security threat.
How ironic is it now that Glen Greenwald’s book about the Snowden affair No Place To Hide contains allegations that the NSA planted backdoors into Cisco networking equipment that was destined for international customers so that they could engage in the same behavior that they were accusing the Chinese of.
According to the report, the NSA routinely receives or intercepts Cisco routers destined for export, modifies them, and then repackages them complete with factory seals before shipping them to the final customer.
An NSA manager described the process as such:
Here’s how it works: shipments of computer network devices (servers, routers, etc,) being delivered to our targets throughout the world are intercepted. Next, they are redirected to a secret location where Tailored Access Operations/Access Operations (AO-S326) employees, with the support of the Remote Operations Center (S321), enable the installation of beacon implants directly into our targets’ electronic devices. These devices are then re-packaged and placed back into transit to the original destination. All of this happens with the support of Intelligence Community partners and the technical wizards in TAO.