According to, security researchers at Kaspersky Lab have unearthed malware that can place spying software in hard drives, fueling suspicion that the National Security Agency may be behind a new breed of cyber espionage technology.

One of an arsenal of tools created by a shadowy collection of hackers dubbed “the Equation Group,” on account of their sophisticated encryption algorithms, the malware has prompted fears of widespread computer eavesdropping.

“It allows them to reprogram the hard drive firmware of over a dozen different hard drive brands, including Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, Maxtor and IBM,” explained Russian security company Kaspersky Lab, in a blog post. “This is an astonishing technical accomplishment and is testament to the group’s abilities.”

While Kaspersky Lab’s report, which came out on Monday, does not name the NSA, it does note links between the Equation Group and the developers of the Stuxnet worm. Stuxnet, which crippled Iran’s nuclear production in 2010, was said to be a joint U.S./Israeli effort.

A former NSA employee told Reuters that people within the intelligence agency valued spying programs such as the ones discovered by Kaspersky Lab on a par with Stuxnet. Reuters also cited another former intelligence operative who confirmed that the NSA had developed the technique of hiding software in hard drives, but said he did not know which spy efforts are using it.

The NSA declined to comment on the Kaspersky Lab report.