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Archive for September 16th, 2012

Hey, Microsoft! Your Machines Wouldn’t Ship With Viruses If They Were Made In The US

Posted by Phoenix Woman on September 16, 2012

A few days ago we reminded Apple that they wouldn’t have to worry about certain things (such as standing helplessly by while Chinese firms cranked out clones of iPhone 5s before the iPhone 5s themselves were released) if they actually made their products here in the US.

Now it’s Microsoft’s turn:

A customer in Shenzhen, China, took a new laptop out of its box and booted it up for the first time. But as the screen lit up, the computer began taking on a life of its own. The machine, triggered by a virus hidden in its hard drive, began searching across the Internet for another computer.

The laptop, supposedly in pristine, super-fast, direct-from-the-factory condition, had instantly become part of an illegal, global network capable of attacking websites, looting bank accounts and stealing personal data.


The shopper in this case was part of a team of Microsoft researchers in China investigating the sale of counterfeit software. They received a sudden introduction to malware called Nitol. The incident was revealed in court documents unsealed Thursday in a federal court in Virginia. The records describe a new front in a legal campaign against cybercrime being waged by the maker of the Windows operating system, which is the biggest target for viruses.

How did malware get on a brand-new laptop before it left the factory? The explanation given in the article is corner-cutting by Microsoft’s Chinese contractors:

What emerges most vividly from the court records and interviews with Microsoft officials is a disturbing picture of how vulnerable Internet users have become, in part because of weaknesses in computer supply chains. To increase their profit margins, less reputable computer manufacturers and retailers may use counterfeit copies of popular software products to build machines more cheaply. Plugging the holes is nearly impossible, especially in less regulated markets such as China, and that leaves openings for cybercriminals.


The investigation by Microsoft’s digital crimes unit began in August 2011 as a study into the sale and distribution of counterfeit versions of Windows. Microsoft employees in China bought 20 new computers from retailers and took them back to a home with an Internet connection.

They found forged versions of Windows on all the machines and malware already installed on four. The one with Nitol, however, was the most alarming because the malware was active.


The laptop was made by Hedy, a computer manufacturer in Guangzhou, China, according to the court records. The company, reached by phone, declined to answer questions.

You know, Microsoft, maybe if you made your stuff in the US, you wouldn’t have to worry so much about forged software, much less companies installing viruses and other malware on Microsoft-branded computers. You’d still be obscenely profitable.

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