Microsoft Windows: Malware Added at Factories in China

Microsoft Windows: Malware Added At Factories in ChinaMicrosoft has discovered a disturbing situation in China, when its digital crimes division purchased brand-new, factory-sealed computer systems. Microsoft has been investigating and prosecuting Chinese companies for installing and/or using illegal Microsoft software. What the investigators stumbled upon was something that was more dire than digital rights violations and could affect everyone who buys a new, factory-sealed personal computer.

Microsoft investigators discovered that the computers they had purchased were already infected with malware known as Nitol. During the course of their investigation, Microsoft investigators tracked the malware infestation to a Chinese factory, according to a recent lawsuit filed by the company. In addition to the malware infestation, Microsoft also discovered that these same systems did in fact contain illegal software that was not produced or authorized by Microsoft.

The malware infestation was tracked to other computer systems that had previously been sold in Russia, China, Australia, Germany, and the United States. The botnet was being controlled by servers located in the Cayman Islands and had been set up to steal users’ personal information including banking, credit card, and other data. People were finding that, after opening their factory-sealed computer systems, setting them up, and connecting to the Internet, the computers would immediately call home.

Microsoft found this revelation disturbing, but not totally surprising. Apparently, this is not the first time that the software giant has discovered this type of infestation with malware being installed on brand-new computer systems. Microsoft has stated that, without any instructions from the users, the computers were pre-programmed to automatically call home to a computer system that was unknown to the users. This criminal behavior is now being further investigated by Microsoft and a lawsuit has been filed against the perpetrators. The lawsuit has been filed here in the United States in a federal court in Virginia.

China has always been a country in which illegal and counterfeit software is sold openly in markets located in public view. I once read that a full version of Windows can be purchased on the streets of China for as little as $2.00. It is therefore not surprising that Microsoft needs a full-time investigation division located in China just to monitor these illegal activities. Now that the company has discovered malware being installed at the factory level, this type of investigation carries an even more important role in protecting all of us from this nasty type of bug.

In addition to stopping the malware installation in China, Microsoft is also pursuing having the servers in the Cayman Islands removed and permanently dismantled. What is disturbing to me is the thought of how many computer systems have already been sold to unsuspecting buyers and have already fallen victim to ID theft. In addition is the fact that it is unknown how many other servers from around the world are also stealing data from users without their knowledge.

One additional note of interest: During the course of its investigation, Microsoft also discovered that the malware was also able to turn on the video camera and microphones of the infected computers. This, in turn, provided the bad guys access to everything a user said and gave access to a bird’s eye view of where the user lived or worked.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by David Erickson

Source: BBC

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • Rob Brewer

    Wow. I recall hearing about the possibility of this some time back, but this is the first confirmed preload attack I’ve heard of. Glad I take the time to wipe the drive and load my OS from scratch, but most consumers dont do that. I would assume that if the recovery partition, if there is one, is infected as well.

  • Wolfee Darkfang

    To me at least, it feels like a majority of illegal things like this happen in China, and don’t get me started on gold farmers in MMORPGs. They literally have sweatshops of people farming and selling gold for WoW and other MMOs, knowing full well the game developers will ban them for it. I refuse to do business with China in any way.

    • Heinz Iten

      “I refuse to do business with China in any way.”
      Please explain to me how you can avoid buying Chinese goods?!? These days everything we consume comes from there. I seems nobody else is capable of manufacturing anymore. You better don’t buy any Apple products, since they have everything made in China.

  • Gadget

    MS already sells their software to people in China at a drastically-discounted rate compared to what they sell it to us for, on the premise that those people just can’t afford $500 for MS Office. MS isn’t going to do anything that will tick off China in any major way, since twenty percent of something is better than one hundred percent of nothing. Anything that MS does on that front in China will be for show, a whitewash, and nothing will really change much.

  • Brian Paone


    I don’t get this problem with Linux Mint or Ubuntu.

    Wonder why that is?

    • WebStalkers

      It must be because you think so highly of yourself. Thats just my guess

  • Alex

    I have a cousin who works for the DoD. He told me that the military (stupidly he said) bought a large number of computer chips from China and they all had viruses installed in them. As my Sicilian grandmother always said, “Cheap you pay; Cheap you get.”

  • WebStalkers

    It still amazes me that we can NOT buy a computer that isnt made in China. While I, and I know plenty of others, would paye a bit extra to have a computer made in the USA, it is impossible to find. I can not state how much I hate these so called American companies that send all these manufacturing jobs to china. Yes it saves money and that is passed on to the consumer (not sure how this applies to apple seeing what they charge..and yes I have a macbook) but these people and comapnies are the most anti-American people/companies around. It makes me sick when I end up purchasing almost any electronic because I know it took away American manufacturing jobs and sent it to a country that already owns our a$$.

  • Stephen Tidwell

    back in 2001 i got a computer for xmas and it was a hp witch had malware preinstalled and was also in the recovery discs that was very disturbing but since it hardly saw internet at the time not all was bad and soon i found a copy of xp pro which solved any all software problems this computer had my only complaint after that was the lack of a agp slot for upgrading the graphics which was only 8mb at the time such little graphics performance i couldn’t even play a dvd :( only thing i kept when an upgrade was needed was the p3 cpu which was rated for 700 mhz and after a new motherboard i overclocked it to 1.2ghz wow what a change i even got a hold of a dual vga nvida graphics card with 128 mb and for the year of 2004 i even had 2 gb of ram and a 40 gb hard drive i also had a dvd-rom and a 52x cd burnner most of the parts i got for free when i upgraded a friends computer which had the latest p4 at the time and a motherboard that seemed well equiped for the time my friend still uses that computer it started with xp pro and now has windows 7 which sadly would not make use of the motherboard’s intergrated sound card and network adapter :( the lack of support for the sound card was bad enough but the lack of support for its network adapter left me puzzled as the network would work all of about five mins and then would act dead to the world how does that work who knows i knew it wasnt a driver problem as i had my laptop with me when i did this and download the driver with my laptop three times turned out we had to go buy a new network card which solved one problem which left him with one last problem which was sound and no money to buy a sound card and as for the motherboard’s intergrated sound it tried to work but would cause a blue screen when sound was played so i disabled the sound from the bios which solved that what is the deal there a 3.6 p4 with hyper threading was more than enough power for windows 7 it even had 2.5 gb of ram and a 100 gb hard drive but as for all the driver problems im stumped since the computer did run fine with vista

  • Tinman57

    Not surprising to me. China has already got a reputation for selling us hardware firewalls for servers with built-in back doors, toys for our kids with lead based paint, dog food with deadly chemicals, etc etc etc. When will we learn?
    When I shop for hardware or equipment of any kind I always look for American made products, which is almost impossible to find. I’d be more than happy to pay a little more for quality.
    But I’m sure China will find a way around it like the Japanese did years ago by building a massive industrial complex they named “USA”. And on the products they sold were labeled “Made In USA”…..

  • Nino Brunori

    My curiosity starts as to why Microsoft whines about China yet still uses them to distribute their products instead of bringing jobs back home to the United States.
    Everyone screams about China but it is the dropping of Tariffs and actions of the US Government that created this Frankenstein monster.