TECH
14/09/2012 04:34 BST | Updated 13/11/2012 05:12 GMT

Microsoft: PCs Infected With Viruses Before They Reach Customers

UPDATE: The original version of this story states that PCs were being infected 'at the factory'. Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit has clarified that this is not the case. According to its study, malware is loaded onto computers before it reaches customers, but after it is shipped by the manufacturer. We apologise for the error.

PCs are being infected with viruses before they even reach customers, according to a Microsoft report.

The computer giant said that PC distribution lines have become a target for cyber criminals.

Viruses lie dormant on a machine until a user buys it -- and is immediately at risk from cyber crime.

Malware found on new PCs by Microsoft could potentially take control of a computer's camera, providing criminals a literal window into your home, as well as stealing personal information, posting on social networks, sending scam emails from your address and accessing online bank accounts.

"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 Domingues Boscovich, at the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit.

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

Microsoft said one virus found on a new machine was hosted on a domain known for "malicious" activity since 2008. The company has now taken control of that domain and neutralised the threat - for now.

Boscovich said: "We will continue to work to protect people that use our products and services from these threats and the cybercriminals behind them. In addition, consumers should also exercise their right to demand that resellers provide them with non-counterfeit products free of malware."

A recent study found that cyber crime costs the UK up to £1.8bn per year - and that globally 18 people are affected every second.