SAN ANGELO, Texas - Online editor's note: We recently ran a story about computers that were infected with a virus right out of the box (see http://wfts.tv/R0Up8k ) . An internet provider in China was hosting a majority of all malicious software links, and this virus instantly made the new computer a part of this network as soon as it was turned on for the first time. Jim Bundy, manager of information security at the E.W. Scripps company explains in non-technical language what this means to the average American, and gives tips on what to do to protect your computer and how to respond to this threat.
Recent stories have been circulating about a Microsoft engineer purchasing a system preloaded with malware (malicious software). In this case, Microsoft engineers went out looking for trouble and they found it. They were looking for hardware vendors who were selling systems with stolen copies of their software and they found more than they bargained for. The software was loaded with Trojan malware that took control of the pc and pointed them to a malicious network hosted in China. Microsoft has taken over that network and is in process of shutting down all illegal activity.
The virus related to this incident is called Nitol and it was first discovered in April 2012. Symantec, an internet information security software company lists the risk as low and easy to clean up.
While this is shocking, this isn’t the first time this has happened regarding electronic products originating from China. There have been confirmed reports of counterfeit routers, USB storage devices and digital picture frames with malware already loaded being unwittingly used in the US, and elsewhere. The vast majority of products coming from China are safe and these are isolated incidents that I wouldn’t worry too much about.
Is this a huge problem today? Probably not. Could it be a huge problem in the future? Most definitely! I do believe that reputable vendors will do all they can to make sure the products we buy from them are safe.
How would you know if system was preloaded with malware?
It isn’t something that the average person would notice. In this case, highly trained Microsoft engineers who knew what the system was supposed to do, noticed abnormal behavior. I share a home pc with my family which we have had for years. I really never know what it’s going to when it boots and I do this for a living! I would be hard pressed to notice any “strange behavior” without some significant indication such as fog horn starting to blare or a small fire erupt. In a nutshell, you’re probably not going to know until it is too late. Loading virus software may or may not catch it: some malware is sophisticated enough to detect anti-virus software and disable it so it can continue to run.
So what can the average person do?
Well, your best bet is to work with reputable hardware vendors for the simple fact that they will back their product. Sony, Lenovo, Apple, Dell, ASUS, Toshiba, etc., all have quality control measures in place to greatly reduce the risk of this happening to their products. The laptop purchased by Microsoft with the malware was made by a company called Hedy. Ever heard of them? Me neither.
Use only authentic software from a reputable source. I know it can be pricy, but is it cheaper in the long run. People who are willing to share pirated software shouldn’t be trusted. The software is often loaded with malware and not easily patched, which will lead to more issues. There’s no honor among thieves; they will steal from you too!
Virus Protection is a must. If money is an issue, there are quite a few companies that offer a free version that will provide adequate protection. AVG, Panda and ClamAV are all decent products. If at all possible I would recommend purchasing a product for the enhanced support features offered by these and other products. Free products offer very basic protection and will not stop the more advanced threats. Microsoft offers free virus protection for home users who have a valid license, another reason to buy their software.
If your system starts to become sluggish or you notice the hard drive working harder than normal, I would perform a full scan of your system and follow the anti-virus software’s recommendation. If this is something that you are not comfortable doing yourself, please seek professional help from a reputable company.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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