England’s Department for Education has learned that laptops given out by the government to support disadvantaged children during the lockdown contain malware. The government has so far sent more than 800,000 laptops to children with no access to devices and / or Internet to assist the disadvantaged demographic home-schooling during lockdown.
The plan is to allow more than a million children who may not have access to technology to participate in virtual classes.
But according to teachers at a Bradford school, some of the laptops were found to contain malware, the BBC reports.
“Upon unboxing and preparing them, it was discovered that a number of the laptops were infected with a self-propagating network worm,” wrote Marium Haque, deputy director of Education and Learning at Bradford Council.
According to a forum discussion maintained by some of the teachers, the GEO laptops came pre-installed with Windows (the BBC report doesn’t name the version) as well as Gamarue.I, an invasive and highly potent piece of malware.
Gamarue can change a PC’s security settings as well as download malicious files from the attackers’ command and control center for a full takeover operation, including spying and stealing private and financial data. It has also been used to deploy ransomware. One of the worm’s flagship capabilities is to make changes to the startup folder in the registry so that any additional malware it installs launches on startup.
“We are aware of an issue with a small number of devices,” a DfE official told BBC News. And we are investigating as an urgent priority to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
“DfE IT teams are in touch with those who have reported this issue. “We believe this is not widespread,” the spokesperson added.
Advanced AV solutions like Bitdefender Total Security will detect Gamarue and stop it in its tracks.
It’s paramount that any undertaking involving large numbers of government-issued laptops begins with a basic scan of the equipment before the devices are sent out. It’s unclear how the devices ended up laced with malware. Hopefully their numbers are indeed small.