Most of us are reasonably savvy now when it comes to online security.  We try and ensure our passwords are reasonably complex.  We ensure we have good quality virus scanning software installed on our machines.  We’re generally pretty good at spotting a phishing attempt.

One thing we’re probably not aware of though is a new tactic being used by cyber criminals.  The BBC reveal that a growing number of criminals are turning their attentions to PC production lines.  So in other words they’re trying to infect your computer whilst it’s being built, and before it’s even been shipped out to you.

Microsoft conducted a study into the security of ‘new born’ PCs and found that several had already been carrying malware whilst still in the factory.  One such virus, known as Nitol, allows the creators to steal your personal details, perhaps for hacking into your online bank.
Microsoft claim that the computers had become infected due to insecure supply chains whilst the machine was being built.  The viruses were discovered when Microsoft digital crime investigators bought 20 PCs, 10 desktops and 10 laptops from different cities in China.

Of those 20 machines, four of them already had a virus in them, despite never having set foot outside of the factory.

The Nitol virus would contact its owners as soon as you turned your machine on, and report a constant stream of data as you used your computer.

“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,” said Richard Boscovich, a lawyer in Microsoft’s digital crimes unit.

A US court has however given Microsoft permission to tackle the botnet behind the virus in an attempt to manage the situation.So next time you buy a new PC, probably the first thing you should do is run a thorough virus, spyware and malware examination of the machine.

Scary times folk