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Chinese PCs ship with pre-installed viruses

Cyber criminals are installing viruses in computers still on factory production lines.

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Microsoft's digital crimes unit discovered computers that were infected with a dangerous virus while still on factory production lines in China. (Alex Tan/AFP/Getty Images)

Cyber criminals intent on hacking into your bank accounts and stealing your personal details have found a new way into your computer.

Researchers in the digital crimes unit at Microsoft found computers that were infected with malicious viruses while still on factory supply lines in China, reports AP.

Microsoft asked the US government for permission to tackle a network of viruses that infect Windows operating systems, the most common target for viruses.

Researchers purchased 20 PCs, 10 desktops and 10 laptops from different cities in China, reports the BBC.

Investigators found a malicious program called Nitol already installed on four brand new computers. Nitol connects with a main computer server and steals personal details to help criminals loot online bank accounts.

Patrick Stratton, a senior manager in Microsoft's digital crimes unit, told AP that the virus was particularly dangerous because it was ready to go as soon as someone pressed the "on" button.

"As soon as we powered on this particular computer, of its own accord without any instruction from us, it began reaching out across the Internet, attempting to contact a computer unfamiliar to us," Stratton told AP.  

Richard Boscovich, a lawyer in Microsoft's digital crimes unit, said criminal are finding new ways to attack computers. 

"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," he wrote in a blog post. 

"Additionally, we found malware that records a person's every keystroke, allowing cybercriminals to steal a victim's personal information," he wrote. 

In a series of documents revealed in federal court in Virginia on Thursday, Microsoft has taken over a Chinese domain called 3322.org which allegedly is involved with the Nitol virus. 

RT reports that Nitol was responsible for nearly a fifth of the world’s illegal transactions in 2009.

Peng Yong, the Chinese businessman and registered owner of the 3322.org domain, denied the allegations and told AP that his company does not tolearate illegal use of the domain. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business/technology/120913/chinese-pcs-ship-pre-installed-viruses-0