September 15, 2012

Chinese-made laptops’ latest feature: Pre-installed viruses

By the time you switch on your fresh-out-of-the-box laptop for the first time, it may already be infected with dangerous malware that can either harm you or turn your computer into a pawn in a criminal cyberwar.

­This accidental discovery was made by Microsoft’s digital crimes unit during an investigation into Chinese computer manufacturers, many of whom are illegally installing its Windows operating system onto their hardware.

"The cybercriminals are really changing the ways they try to attack you," Richard Boscovich, a former federal prosecutor and a senior attorney in Microsoft's digital crimes unit wrote in the company’s blog.

After Microsoft engineers purchased and tested local laptops, they discovered that 20 percent of them had become infected with viruses or malware at some point between leaving the assembly line and the date of purchase.

"We found malware capable of remotely turning on an infected computer's microphone and video camera, potentially giving a cybercriminal eyes and ears into a victim's home or business," Boscovich said. "Additionally, we found malware that records a person's every keystroke, allowing cybercriminals to steal a victim's personal information."

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