Malware could already be on devices when you buy them

Some people take great pleasure out of opening the box on a new phone, tablet or PC. For others, it’s just the start of their problems. 

Bloatware (sometimes called crapware) are apps, free trials and other products that come pre-installed on devices. In many cases, these products are annoyances that slow systems over time or produce annoying pop-up notifications (usually when you’re in the middle of doing something very important or about to get a high score).

But in a recent case, that pre-installed programming actual turned out to be as bad as malware.  Lenovo included a program on some of its consumer laptops that inserted product ads into search results but also could be used to launch man-in-the-middle attacks.

Mobile malware on new devices

In some rare instances, even smartphones can come with mobile malware installed – although that isn’t necessarily the fault of the manufacturer.

There have been cases of mobile malware found on new phones, mostly sold through unofficial vendors (like online auction sites). In these cases, it’s often hackers who purchase new phones, install malware on them, then flip them on the open market.

Removing before using

No matter how the malware gets onto systems – whether it’s from hackers or manufacturers – it’s important that any device you get out to users be screened carefully. Here are three rules to live by:

  • Consult with providers. If you get your equipment through leasing companies or other providers, check to see if there’s an option to have the PCs or phones cleared of any unwanted software before they even arrive at your door.
  • Stick to trusted brands. Some manufacturers offer versions of their devices that are stripped down with no adware or pre-installed programs (but at a higher cost). Go with these options whenever possible and economically feasible. And buying new is usually better than used.
  • Trust, but verify. Make sure even new equipment is run through virus scans or security checks. There’s no telling what they’ll try to slip by you.

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