Sophisticated malware could do that. How sophisticated? I don't know but some possibilities makes sense. 1- I remember I've read somewhere that your BIOS could get infected, that way the malware would persist thru Windows installations. Do you have any idea on how BIOS could infect the OS? 2- You have an external or internal HDD with programs/movies/songs in it. If that drive was infected, it could infect the OS. Question is; Can the malware jump out without even opening an exe or movie? Just by being connected... I think big players like states can create such sophisticated malware. I'd imagine most governments would go any length for consolidation of power and controlling of the masses.