Did GCHQ reveal secrets about computer insecurity when it exorcised the Snowden leaks from the Guardian's laptops?

When Prime Minister David Cameron ordered two GCHQ spooks to go the the Guardian's offices and ritually exorcise two laptops that had held copies of the Snowden leaks, we assumed it was just spook-lunacy; but Privacy International thinks that if you look at which components the spies targeted for destruction, there are hints about ways that spies can control computer hardware.

We examined all the destroyed components, and while much was destroyed, our intial investigation will look to find out more about the following components targeted by GCHQ:

– keyboard controller chip

– trackpad controller chip

– inverting converter chip

Below, the left image shows a keyboard controller board intact while the right image is the destroyed component provided by the Guardian. From our analysis, we believe the targeted component of the keyboard is the keyboard encoder responsible for communicating over the USB and interpreting key presses on its various I/O pins. We believe this component, under the black covering in the image below, is similar in function to the chip described here.

What does GCHQ know about our devices that we don't? [Dr Richard Tynan, Mustafa Al-Bassam/Privacy International]