Seagate Ships Virus-Laden Hard Drives

If you bought one of Seagate's Maxtor Basics consumer hard drives recently, check it for viruses. Especially if you're a gamer.

Seagate is warning that a "small number" of its Maxtor Basics Personal Storage 3200 hard drives recently shipped with the Virus.Win32.AutoRun.ah virus, malicious software that "searches for passwords for online games and sends them to a server located in China," according to a note posted on the Seagate Web site. Only drives purchased since August 2007 are affected, Seagate said.

The hard drive maker is blaming an unnamed subcontractor, located in China, for the problem. Seagate said it learned about the problem from antivirus vendor Kaspersky Lab. According to published reports, Seagate has had problems with Maxtor Basics drives sold over the past few months in the Netherlands and Taipei.

On Monday, the Taipei Times reported that Taiwanese distributor Xander International had discovered that 1,800 Maxtor Basics 500G-byte hard drives were affected, all manufactured in Thailand.

When contacted by IDG News Service on Monday, Seagate offered few additional details on the problem, except to say that it was investigating the cause of the infection and that it was offering a 60-day free trial of Kaspersky's anti-virus software through the Seagate Web site. "The trial version of the Kaspersky anti-virus software is capable of identifying and removing the virus," spokesman Forrest Monroy said via e-mail.

The virus scans the hard drive for password information on World of Warcraft as well as a number of Chinese games such as QQ, WSGame, and AskTao, Seagate said.

Trend Micro researcher Paul Ferguson said that while the password-collecting servers may appear to be located in China, they are actually located in Dallas and Korea.

Customers can contact Seagate customer support to find out if their particular drive is infected.

This isn't the first time that subcontractors have been blamed for virus infections on storage media. A year ago, Apple shipped a number of Video iPod systems infected with a virus. The company blamed a contract manufacturer for the problem.

Security experts say that it's easy for this kind of thing to happen, if one PC in the testing, manufacturing and quality assurance chain is infected. In the iPod video case, the hard drives were infected with Windows-based virus.

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