Born Under A Bad Sign: Pre-Installed Computer Malware

The Associated Press reports that Microsoft found brand new computers in China that came out of the box already infected with malware. They found that these computers also had counterfeit copies of Windows installed.

Microsoft is suing a web domain owned by a Chinese businessman for computer fraud. According to the AP report:

“The company says the domain is a major hub for illicit Internet activity, home base for Nitol and more than 500 other types of malware, which makes it the largest single repository of infected software that Microsoft officials have encountered.”

Don’t think this is something that is limited to China, however. It can and does happen here in the US. If you buy a brand new device, and it exhibits weird behavior right out of the box; it might be a result of something like this.

I know, because I believe it happened to me when I bought a new PC last year. Nothing I did could fix it; including sending it back to the factory for a new motherboard and hard drive.

Finally, I brought it back to where I bought it, and got a replacement. But, the replacement they gave me was also infected right out of the box.

When the store manager tried to say it wasn’t their responsibility to replace it; I pointed out the  well-publicized issues Dell had been having with infected motherboards. His response was “I’ll see if the one you bought is one of the infected models”.

Apparently it was, because  eventually I got a replacement that worked. But if I hadn’t insisted that I knew the score, and I wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer; I’d have been stuck with a defective, infected, expensive, hunk of junk.

Here’s what to do if it happens to you:

  • Take it back to where you bought it, and request a replacement. Make sure it’s not exactly the same type of computer, though, because you’ll probably get another one infected in exactly the same way.
  • Don’t wait too long to bring it back. Do it right away, so it’s still under covered under warrantee. Since it’s defective; the retailer should be able to send it back to the company and get reimbursed.
  • Recognize this is a global issue that is affecting even the biggest corporations, governments, and organizations in the world.

Find out more about cybercrime enabled by pre-installed malware. It’s a growing issue, and the Federal Government is taking an active role in what they call “supply chain risk management”.

Network World: Microsoft Takes Down Another Botnet, Nitol

PCWorld.com: Microsoft Battles Botnet Pre-Installed on Systems

Bloomberg Business Week: Microsoft Finds Malware On New Computers In China

The White House: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): A Toolkit to Support Federal Agencies Implementing BYOD Programs

FBI: Testimony Before Senate Judiciary Committee: Responding to the Threat of Cybercrime and Cyber Terrorism

Dell Warns on Spyware Infected Motherboards

Related blog posts: Cyber Insecurity, and Why Is The Internet Unstable?

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