Malware present on PCs before they even reach stores, says Microsoft

malware present on pcs before they even reach stores says microsoft

Here’s an unexpected new element in the perpetually ongoing struggle over whether you should buy a PC or a Mac: A newly-released report is claiming that malware is being installed on PC machines before they’re even released from the factories – and the source of that new report is theoretically someone who would know: Microsoft.

The claim comes after researchers working for the software giant investigated the sale of counterfeit software in China discovered malware pre-installed on four out of twenty machines tested, with pirated or fake versions of Windows present on every single one of the tested machines. Each of the twenty machines were brand new, and had been purchased for the purpose of testing, and as such hadn’t been used prior to testing.

According to the report, the most aggressive piece of malware found on any of the twenty machines was a software known as Nitol, which links machines to a botnet and has been found on systems as far afield as the US, Russia, China, Australia and Germany, with the malware apparently being controlled by servers in the Cayman Islands.

The investigation is believed to have started a little over a year ago, with Microsoft employees in China purchasing new PCs and laptops as part of a push to discover how widespread counterfeit Microsoft software was in the Chinese market. According to Microsoft’s Patrick Stratton, a manager in the company’s digital crimes unit and the author of the report revealing this information, the discovery of the machine pre-loaded with Nitol was most surprising – and most disturbing.

“As soon as we powered on this particular computer, of its own accord without any instruction from us, it began reaching out across the internet, attempting to contact a computer unfamiliar to us,” he wrote in the report, adding that as soon as a thumb drive was plugged into the machine, Nitol copied itself onto that drive and then, when that drive was attached to another machine, copied itself onto the new machine as well.

The reason behind this information coming to light is a new lawsuit filed by Microsoft against a Chinese businessman known as Peng Yong, who it believes to be the man behind a web domain used by the malware to co-ordinate activities. “In short,” the lawsuit reads, “3322.org is a major hub of illegal Internet activity, used by criminals every minute of every day to pump malware and instructions to the computers of innocent people worldwide.”

Peng, perhaps unsurprisingly, denies any wrongdoing on his part, although it’s worth noting that security firm Zscaler reported that 3322.org was responsible for more than 17 percent of malicious web transactions in the world during 2009. The lawsuit was unsealed by a federal court in Virginia yesterday.


Smishing sounds funny, but it’s a serious threat to your phone’s security

We all know phishing is a huge security problem, but most people still believe it’s a problem limited to email. According to new reports, however, phishing scams are attempting to exploit your trust in text messages.

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.

Your new PC may have shipped with an unsupported version of Windows 10

If you bought or are looking to buy a new Windows laptop or tablet this holiday season, be aware that it could have shipped with an unsupported operating system. The issue is caused by Microsoft pulling its October 2018 Update.

Hacker infects 100K routers in latest botnet attack aimed at sending email spam

An attacker is trying to infect your router with malware in order to send spam emails. If your router uses a Broadcom UPnP SDK, it could become vulnerable to this attack. So far, 100,000 routers worldwide have been infected.

The vast majority of YouTube users hit the site for how-to videos

Ever searched for a how-to video on YouTube? Of course you have. The streaming site is bursting with useful guides on how to do stuff, and a recent study has revealed that more users than ever are using it as a learning resource.

Don't take your provider's word for it: Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.

Data stolen from HealthCare.gov includes partial SSNs and immigration status

Around 75,000 users have had their user data stolen from government site healthcare.gov, including information on their immigration status, whether they were pregnant, and partial social security numbers.

Be at your most productive with these Slack tips and tricks

Slack is an common means of communication in the workplace, but how do you use some of the app's lesser-known features to get the most out of your experience? Here's what you need to know to stay organized, efficient, and entertained.

Get rid of your Audible account by following these quick steps

Want to learn how to cancel your Audible membership? It's easier than you might think. Just follow along with these steps and you'll be rid of the audiobook listening service for good. Or until you sign up again.

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than it's ever been, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.

How to change your Gmail password in just a few quick steps

Regularly updating your passwords is a good way to stay secure online, but each site and service has their own way of doing it. Here's a quick guide on how to change your Gmail password in a few short steps.

Need a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator? Here are our favorites

Photoshop and other commercial tools can be expensive, but drawing software doesn't need to be. This list of the best free drawing software is just as powerful as some of the more expensive offerings.

Edit, sign, append, and save with 12 of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.