Microsoft PCs infected on the way to consumersMicrosoft researchers recently discovered some of the brand's computers manufactured in China were infected with malware. While finding a laptop with a virus is not uncommon, these computers were loaded with the software before they ever hit the consumer market. Because no customers ever used the computers, experts have determined they were infected at some point in the Microsoft supply chain.

Virus-infected electronics
The computers were preloaded with software that would allow hackers to access sensitive information. By turning on a microphone or webcam, the cyberthieves can monitor what a user is doing with their computer, and obtain passwords and confidential financial information.

Richard Domingues Boscovich, the assistant general counsel for the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, revealed in a company blog post that 20 percent of the PCs a Microsoft research team purchased in China were infected with malicious software before they were ever sold.

Many industries, including the electronics field, rely on the inexpensive parts and labor in China to cut down on manufacturing costs. Large companies that build more products with many parts, such as computers, have complicated supply chains in the region. These complex chains mean the viruses could have come in parts from a wide range of suppliers.

Microsoft isn't the only one having problems getting untampered with electronics to consumers. Several years ago, multiple U.S. government agencies purchased Cisco routers from China to handle their web traffic, according to the Huffington Post. The routers were fake, and included software that could allow hackers to access government systems. The Pentagon's supply chain was also found to have counterfeit electronics, which were purchased for use in Air Force cargo planes and helicopters.

Supply chains still rely on China
Despite the cybersecurity risks and counterfeit goods running rampant, large companies are often still choosing to manufacture their goods in China.

"It's one of the toughest cybersecurity challenges out there," said Tom Kellerman, Trend Micro's vice president of cybersecurity, according to the Huffington Post. "There's not really a solution unless you start to only build computers in the USA again."

It seems that many companies find the cost savings of operating in China more beneficial than moving their production to another country. But because electronics supply chains are so complex and include a vast number of suppliers, it is almost impossible to stop viruses from being loaded onto goods overseas.

As companies deal with more associates and complexity in their supply chains, the risk for counterfeit goods and security concerns is heightened. Boscovich told the Huffington Post that distributors, resellers and suppliers need to implement strict security policies to ensure their products are virus-free and weed unreliable partners out of supply chains.
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