Vendors: Ample tests to nip tainted goods

Major hardware manufacturers say there are enough processes in place to prevent malware-infected equipment from being shipped to customers.

Although some have blamed virus-infected products on shoddy manufacturing, hardware vendors insist there are adequate testing measures in place to sift out malware before equipment is shipped.

Reports of products shipped with malware have sprung up in the last two years, even as the pace of cybercrime escalates. In 2007, TomTom admitted it had shipped viruses on some of its satellite navigation devices. At that time, the company said it would take the "appropriate actions" to prevent similar incidents in future.

In the United States, there have also been instances of digital photo frames, hard drives and iPods infected with malware. The U.S. Department of Defense last year even temporarily banned the use of removable storage devices including thumb drives and CDs.

Legal reprieve for businesses

Businesses that discover their purchases are tainted with malware, may be able to seek legal reprieve, a legal expert said.
Under such circumstances, the customers can claim that the products purchased were defective or failed to meet the expected "merchantability standards", Bryan Tan, director of Keystone Law, said in an e-mail interview.
Contract terms, however, may state that products have been tested for viruses but not guarantee that they are virus-free.
Even when enterprises are found to suffer losses, the terms and conditions usually limit the loss to product exchange, "so businesses may be able to get replacements but if other losses are incurred, then such losses may not be covered", he added.

But hardware vendors ZDNet Asia contacted, said there are sufficient processes in place to ensure equipment shipped are free of viruses.

For hard drive maker Seagate, the products are subjected to "rigorous and thorough" testing before being packaged for shipment, a spokesperson said in an e-mail interview.

"Seagate does test for viruses and malware in our manufacturing and testing processes--running virus checks on all of our test equipment to ensure viruses are not introduced," the Singapore-based spokesperson said. "We also run a 'clean up' at the last step in the process as a final [step of] protection."

There are also "additional measures in place to ensure product quality, including security procedures at our manufacturing facilities to prevent electronics of any kind from being brought into the manufacturing area which may introduce viruses or malware", she added.

A Dell spokesperson based in Singapore said there are "multiple fail-safe measures" built into its processes to minimize malicious threats.

Industry-certified software and applications selected by customers have already been pre-tested on its hardware before installation, he explained. The testing includes checks to ensure there are no compatibility issues or malware.

Dell also has procedures to test non-mainstream software or applications specifically requested for by customers, the spokesperson added.

At press time, Lenovo and Nokia had not responded to queries. Samsung declined to comment for this story.