Malware has been found on a small number of school laptops given to children by the UK Government. The devices, which were intended to aid remote learning for some of the country’s most disadvantaged pupils contained a worm that appeared to be sending information to servers in Russia.
The UK Government has given away more than 800,000 laptops so far as part of its target to supply over a million devices to children that may struggle to gain access to digital tools at home. However, a handful of devices sent to a school in Bradford were found to be infected with Gamarue.I, a self-propagating network worm first identified by Microsoft in 2012.
The Gamarue.I worm installs spyware on an infected device, collecting information about browsing habits and other sensitive information. It has also been known to download files without the user’s permission.
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The UK’s Department of Education has confirmed that it is aware of the matter and is carrying out an urgent investigation. Nevertheless, it is somewhat embarrassing for the government body that the devices were not checked for malicious software before being given away.
As of yet, there is no word on who may be responsible for the malware strain, which appears to be contacting Russian servers. Most reports appear to be suggesting that an IT supplier based in the South-East of England, XMA, provided the infected laptops but the company has not yet responded to a request for comment.
With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to force the closure of schools, remote learning has become essential. The news of a malware strain packaged in government-supplied devices is a disconcerting development and will surely result in better vetting and analysis around donated devices going forward.
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