I have always recommended completely reformatting any new laptop that you may buy. I used to also do this with any company issued laptop when I worked for Computer Security companies.
But this new revelation that NSA Special TAO groups will actual divert companies purchases of brand named laptops and install spyware on them after they are shipped by the vendor and before they are received by the purchaser. Now I used to work for several of the largest security companies in the world and I from 2005 to 2009, I taught several classes at 4 different NSA Facilities. I have known that privacy has not existed for years. But even I am surprised by this recent revelation.
Report via Der Spiegel
Based on internal NSA documents, reveals that the NSA, in conjunction with the CIA and FBI, has begun intercepting laptops purchased online in order to install (quite literal) spyware and even hardware on the machines. The NSA terms this “interdiction.” Agents divert shipments to secret warehouses, carefully open the packages, install the software and/or hardware, and send them on their way.
According to the report, this operation is carried out by the NSA’s elite hacking unit, or TAO—not to be confused with the much less imposing Taoism—though there are few details on the scope or targets of the program.
The spy agency reportedly has backdoor access to numerous hardware and software systems from prominent tech companies such as Cisco, Dell, and Western Digital, among others. The NSA can even exploit Microsoft Windows error reports to find weak spots in compromised machines in order to install Trojans and other viruses.