It has not been a good couple of weeks for Microsoft. First, they discovered that Hackers had found a Security Hole in Internet Explorer. Now, the computer company has discovered that many of their PCs and laptops made in China were embedded with malicious software before ever reaching the consumer. The computer virus allows hackers to switch on a microphone or Webcam, record keystrokes, and access login credentials and online bank accounts.
And because computer companies rely on such a long and complex supply line, the malicious software could have been uploaded at any point, something Richard Domingues Boscovich, the assistant general counsel for the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, called “especially disturbing.”
“It’s one of the toughest cybersecurity challenges out there,” said Tom Kellermann, vice president of cybersecurity at Trend Micro. “There’s not really a solution unless you start to only build computers in the USA again.”
This isn’t the first time this has happened either. In 2008, the Defense Department and Federal Aviation Administration unknowingly purchased counterfeit Cisco routers, which were pre-loaded malicious software. FBI investigators found the routers allowed hackers to “gain access to otherwise secure systems.”
Then in May, the Senate Armed Services Committee released a report citing 1,800 cases of counterfeit electronics from China, electronics used in the Air Force’s largest cargo plane and Special Operation helicopters.
“Companies are in a competitive dogfight to make products cheaper and hit the market faster,” said Scott Aken, a former FBI special agent who dealt with cyber counterintelligence. “They’re not spending time or money to ensure those products they are sourcing from overseas are devoid of counterfeits.”
So what are consumers to do?
Boscovich offers this simple advice: Consumers can often spot dangerous counterfeit technology if the deal “appears too good to be true.”
“However, sometimes people just can’t tell, making the exploitation of a broken supply chain an especially dangerous vehicle for infecting people with malware.”
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