Apr 20, 2008
SY Tan

Virus Attack Via Infected Gizmo

A Los Angeles computer consultant, Jerry Askew, bought a new Uniek digital picture frame and got an unpleasant surprise when he plugged it into his Windows PC. The antivirus program in his computer alerted him to the invasion of four viruses into his system, including one which steals passwords.

The problem is traced to the manufacturing and assembly line in China, where most multi-national companies have outsourced their work. Malicious software infects a gadget when it is being tested in a corrupted computer by an irresponsible worker who may have infected the company’s system with his own online activities or compromised software. When the product goes to the market, it comes free with a handful of viruses which may create a lot of problems for the unsuspecting user. These pre-installed viruses create havoc by stealing passwords, opening doors for hackers and generating spam.

There seems no end to the malicious and corrupted goods coming out of China –SKII cosmetic products, Fisher-Price lead-laden toys, canned food, and Chinese medicine. Infected software and gadgets may just be another item on the list. But the potential hazard to the world is tremendous. While current infections may not be intentional or planned, the carelessness and lack of quality control in these Chinese assembly lines (or any assembly lines for that matter) could provide an avenue for hackers and terrorists to launch their attack on computer systems in the world. Tracking the viruses or recalling the gadgets will be highly expensive and near impossible as the manufacturing process and the outsourcing contacts are usually kept under wraps by multi-national companies.

While computer users have been warned to be careful when opening suspicious email or downloading porn from the Internet, they could still have got infected just by plugging in a device or gizmo they had got from an authentic dealer. Because the threat is unsuspected, the potential harm may be more serious and irreversible. While outsourced devices may be cheap, both companies and users could end up paying more. It’s the classic case of being penny wise but pound foolish. The answer to this predicament is for users to update their anti-virus software and for outsourcing companies to keep a tighter check on their outsourced products. Buy one, free four is definitely not an advantage here.

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