FBI investigating laptops sent to US governors

Laptops have been ordered, out of the blue, to 10 states

There may be a new type of Trojan Horse attack to worry about.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is trying to figure out who is sending laptop computers to state governors across the U.S., including West Virginia Governor Joe Mahchin and Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal. Some state officials are worried that they may contain malicious software.

According to sources familiar with the investigation, other states have been targeted too, with HP laptops mysteriously ordered for officials in 10 states. Four of the orders were delivered, while the remaining six were intercepted, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

The West Virginia laptops were delivered to the governor's office several weeks ago, prompting state officials to contact police, according to Kyle Schafer, the state's chief technology officer. "We were notified by the governor's office that they had received the laptops and they had not ordered them," he said. "We checked our records and we had not ordered them."

State officials in Vermont told him they've received similar unsolicited orders, Schafer said. Representatives from those states could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Schafer doesn't know what's on the laptops, but he handed them over to the authorities. "Our expectation is that this is not a gesture of good will," he said. "People don't just send you five laptops for no good reason."

The computers are now being held as evidence by state police, who are working with the FBI to figure out how the machines were sent to the governor's office, said Michael Baylous, a sergeant with the West Virginia State Police.

The West Virginia laptops were delivered Aug. 5, according to the Charleston Gazette, which first reported the story.

The laptops sent to the Wyoming governor's office arrived in two separate shipments on Aug. 3 and Aug. 6, according to Cara Eastwood, a spokeswoman for Governor Freudenthal.

"We received one package, opened it and realized that it was an error since no one in our office had ordered them," she said. "The next day we received another package. At this point we realized that they needed to be turned over to law enforcement."

Although there is no evidence that the computers contain malicious code, HP confirmed Thursday that there have been several such orders and that they have been linked to fraud. "HP is aware that fraudulent state government orders recently have been placed for small amounts of HP equipment," spokeswoman Pamela Bonney said in an e-mail message. "HP took prompt corrective action to address the fraudulent orders and is working with law enforcement personnel on a criminal investigation."

With users now more reluctant to install suspicious software or open attachments on their networks, scammers appear to be looking for new ways to get inside the firewall.

Criminals have tried to put malware on USB devices and then left them outside company offices, hoping someone would plug them into a computer and inadvertently install malicious software on the network. Many Windows systems are configured to automatically run software included on CDs and USB devices using a Windows feature called AutoRun.

Many organized criminals would be happy to spend the cost of five PCs in order to access government computers, said Steve Santorelli, director of investigations with security consultancy Team Cymru. "What is a netbook? $700? You send five of them; you're dropping three grand, and say you get into the Congressional e-mail system. How valuable would that be?"

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Topics: trojan, fbi, malware
Comments are now closed.

Latest News Articles

Most Popular Articles

Follow Us

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Resources

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Compare & Save

Deals powered by WhistleOut
WhistleOut

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?