New computers, still under development in factories, are being infected with malware in their production lines, a new Microsoft study has suggested.
One virus called Nitol found by Microsoft steals personal details to help criminals plunder online bank accounts.
The viruses were discovered when Microsoft's digital crime investigators bought 20 PCs, 10 desktops and 10 laptops from different cities in China, out of which four were infected with malicious programs even though they were fresh from the factory, the BBC reports.
Nitol was the most pernicious of the viruses Microsoft caught because, as soon as the computer was turned on, it tried to contact the command and control system set up by Nitol's makers to steal data from infected machines.
Further investigation revealed that the botnet behind Nitol was being run from a web domain that had been involved in cybercrime since 2008. Also on that domain were 70,000 separate sub-domains used by 500 separate strains of malware to fool victims or steal data.
"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 in a blogpost.
A U.S. court has now given Microsoft permission to seize control of the web domain, 3322.org, which it claims is involved with the Nitol infections. (ANI)