Is nothing sacred anymore? Apparently not! When you buy a brand spankin’ new computer, you expect it to be pristine. You also expect it to work perfectly and be free of any infections or viruses. But that’s no longer a given. There’s a chance that fabulous new machine you just paid several Benjamin’s for could be infected with malware, even before you take it out of the box and remove all the packing.
Now, this doesn’t warrant a widespread panic but it is worth a little attention, especially if you’re in the market for a new computer and you’re a bargain hunter who shops the Internet looking for a deal.
The hubbub is all about the recent report of malware called Nitol. The malicious computer code was found on brand new computers purchased in China. In a nutshell, this all came to light when a team of researchers from Microsoft’s digital crimes unit began an investigation last year. They were looking into the sale and distribution of counterfeit copies of the Windows operating system software. The team purchased twenty new computers from retailers in China. They later found the computers were all equipped with counterfeit copies of Windows. Four of the machines already had malware of some variety on them, and one contained the active Nitol infection.
Once powered up and connected to Internet, a computer with Nitol hidden on its hard drive begins searching for other computers over the Internet. Once it finds one, the new computer instantly becomes part of a botnet, or collection of compromised computers, which is a world-wide criminal network that can attack websites, steal personal information, and take money from bank accounts. This is one of the most invasive and persistent forms of cybercrime. More details about the investigation, called Operation b70, can be viewed in a Microsoft blog post.
So, what’s one to do? Try following these tips when purchasing your new computer and you should be one step ahead of the bad guys:
- Consider the source for your new computer hardware and software purchases. Saving a few bucks up front could cost you a lot more in the long run. It’s not worth buying from a sketchy seller.
- Make sure you obtain the proper licensing documentation for the software (especially the operating system) that’s installed on your new computer. Don’t accept any excuses or explanations for not receiving it. Even if there’s no malware involved, without a legitimate copy of the operating system, at best you won’t get any technical support for the software and at worst, you won’t be able to activate the software at all.
- Ensure your operating system is up to date, even on a brand new machine. Several updates may have been issued from the time the operating system was installed on your computer to when you actually use it for the first time.
- Make sure you have an antivirus software program before you go online or, at least, make that your first order of business on the Internet. Consider an “Internet Security” program, over just an antivirus program, to ensure you also have a firewall component included. However, your Windows operating system does include a firewall, so be sure to use one or the other.
- Check to see if your antivirus or Internet security program includes a spyware detection feature or an anti-spyware program. If it doesn’t, consider downloading one.
- Ensure your firewall is software is turned on.
To see additional information about Nitol and botnets visit the following links: