Laptops given to vulnerable children found to contain malware

The Department for Education says it is urgently investigating reports that malware was found on laptops given to vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

Headteachers in Bradford say they received a warning that laptops due to be given to vulnerable children to support home learning contained malware which appeared to be contacting Russian servers.

The warning, an email from Bradford Council, was shared on online forum EduGeek – a peer support community and information portal.

The email states: “We have been made aware of the following issue from a Bradford school. They have just received their final assignment of Windows laptops from the DfE. The laptops are Geo Geobooks 1E.

“Upon unboxing and preparing them it was discovered that a number of the laptops are infected with a self-propagating network worm (Gamarue.I). The network worm looks like it contacts Russian servers when active.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We are aware of an issue with a small number of devices. And we are investigating as an urgent priority to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

The spokesperson added that IT teams from the Department have been in touch with those who have reported the issue, and that they “believe it is not widespread”.

Malware, shorthand for ‘malicious software’, is the collective name for a number of harmful software variants, including viruses, ransomware and spyware. Malware is typically designed to cause extensive damage to data and systems or to gain unauthorized access to a network.

Speaking to the BBC, Information Security Consultant Paul Moore said that the Gamarue worm "presents a very severe threat to any PC or network."

"Ideally users should reboot into safe mode and run a full scan with an anti-virus product," he said.

"However with this type of malware, it is advisable to seek professional assistance in order to ensure it has been correctly removed."
George Glass, head of threat intelligence at cyber security firm Redscan, said: "The fact that these devices were not checked and scrubbed before being sent to vulnerable children is a concern.”

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