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Catalogue reveals secret NSA backdoors in major US tech companies

The United States National Security Agency has been secretly planting back doors in electronics as part of its covert Tailored Access Operations unit, according to reports from German magazine Der Spiegel.

An internal NSA catalogue viewed by Der Spiegel revealed that companies including Dell, IBM, Cisco, Juniper, Seagate, Western Digital and Maxtor have been subject to the agency's TAO hacking unit for years.

The 50 page catalogue dates back to 2008 and lists weaknesses in hardware and software distributed by these major tech companies, which NSA agents working within a division called ANT can exploit.

"These NSA agents, who specialize in secret back doors, are able to keep an eye on all levels of our digital lives - from computing centres to individual computers, from laptops to mobile phones," Der Spiegel reports.

"For nearly every lock, ANT seems to have a key in its toolbox. And no matter what walls companies erect, the NSA's specialists seem already to have gotten past them."

It is the latest revelation in the long running NSA spying scandal brought about by documents leaked earlier this year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Der Spiegel's report is not only damaging to the already tainted reputation of the US government, it will most likely also have wide-reaching consequences for the US tech sector. The implications of such revelations could see customers move to European and Asian competitors.

A recent investigation by the Independent on Sunday revealed that technology giants IBM and Cisco have seen sales fall by more than $1.7 billion (£1 billion) year-on-year in the Asia-Pacific region since the scandal first broke in June.