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One week after a Chinese subcontractor manufacturing computer hard drives for sale in America was discovered to have been placing a Trojan horse on them that would upload users’ passwords to a website in Beijing, the manufacturer says it doesn’t believe the Chinese government was involved.
Seagate Technology, a New York Stock Exchange-listed company, told WND: “We have no indication, nor any reason to believe, the Chinese authorities were involved at all.”
The report first surfaced in Asia in a story by the Taipei Times, which said some 1,800 Maxtor Basics 3200 hard drives manufactured in China contained two Trojan horses programmed to upload secretly to websites in Beijing anything the computer saves on the drive.
Webopedia.com defines “Trojan horse” as “a destructive program that masquerades as a benign application.” Unlike viruses, the site says, Trojan horses do not replicate themselves “but they can be just as destructive.”
Investigation Bureau officials from the Taipei Ministry of Justice suspect Chinese government authorities were involved as part of “an aggressive spying program relying on information technology and the Internet,” the Times reported.
Woody Monroe, a spokesman for Seagate, confirmed to WND the hard drives in question did contain Trojan horses when marketed to consumers.
In a corporate statement provided toWND, Seagate argued the Trojan horses on the hard drives gathered only passwords for online games.
The company argued, “Our investigation also determined that the introduction of the virus (sic) was accidental and was not purposeful or malicious.”
WND asked Monroe the following questions by e-mail:
- What in your investigation permitted you to determine the incident was accidental?
- Why didn’t you fire the contract manufacturer?
- Can you identify the contract manufacturer?
- What percentage of your branded products are you manufacturing in China?
Monroe responded, “I don’t have the info you requested at this time.”
Seagate’s corporate statement further claimed all hard drives leaving the Chinese subcontractor are now clean.
“We have put additional stringent measures and procedures in place at the contract manufacturer to prevent a similar occurrence from happening again,” the company said.
A flurry of reader posts on computer websites alerted Maxtor Basics 3200 purchasers to the dangers of the malware added by the Chinese subcontractor.
One poster on Engadget.com wrote: “How convenient – your shiny new Maxtor Basics Personal Storage 3200 may have come preloaded with a nasty virus right out of the box.”
The poster continued, “Apparently, the molar virus is one that gets its kicks by searching for passwords to online games (World of Warcraft included) and sending them back to a ‘server located in China,’ and if that wasn’t enough, it can also disable virus detection software and delete other molar viruses without breaking into a sweat.”
Another website poster quipped, “Never to fear, I have a brand, spanking new Anti-Spyware program called, Made-in-China Killer of all Spyware. I’m ready, bring on the bad guys!”
Seagate has offered purchasers of the affected unit a 60-day free download of Kaspersky protection software to scan and clean hard drives.
To determine if a Maxtor Basics 3200 is infected with a Trojan horse, a purchaser can call Seagate customer service department with the unit’s serial number for identification.
The Seagate website lists 28 of the industry’s 32 anti-virus software titles that have updated their definition list.
Seagate’s website claims all of the known games affected are Chinese, with the exception of World of Warcraft.
Computer expert Adrian Kingsley-Hughes warns all readers there is a moral to the Seagate story: “Practice ‘safe sectors’ and scan, or preferably wipe, all drives before bringing them into the ecosystem. Don’t assume that a drive is going to be blank and malware free. Trust no one.”
Kingsley-Hughes writes a popular website under the title “PC Doctor.”