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The spyware is said to be closely linked to Stuxnet, the US-led computer worm that targeted Iran's uranium enrichment.
The US National Security Agency has declined to comment on a report linking it to spyware with the means to snoop on most of the world's computers.
Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based security software maker, said it had identified malicious software embedded in the hard drives of top computer manufacturers.
Kaspersky said it found the spyware on personal computers in 30 countries, including Iran, Russia, Pakistan and China.
The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication and energy firms, banks, media and Islamic activists, said Kaspersky.
Its report did not say who was responsible for the spyware, but said it was closely linked to Stuxnet, a US-led computer worm that targeted Iran's uranium enrichment.
Former intelligence operatives have linked the new spyware to the NSA, speaking to Reuters news agency.
But NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said the agency would not comment publicly on the Kaspersky report.
According to Kaspersky, the spies have lodged the malicious software in the code that launches every time a computer is turned on.
"The hardware will be able to infect the computer over and over," lead Kaspersky researcher Costin Raiu said in an interview.
The spies only seized full remote control over certain foreign targets' machines, said Kapersky, though they could have taken over many more PCs.
Kaspersky says the spyware would work in disk drives sold by more than a dozen of the top manufacturers, including Toshiba Corp, IBM and Samsung.
It is not clear how the authors of the spyware could have obtained the hard drives' source code.
Kaspersky referred to the group behind the attack as the Equation group, because of the encryption used in its attacks.
The NSA has been on the defensive since damaging disclosures by former contractor Edward Snowden on the extent of its activities