DfE laptops for home-schooling found to contain malware

‘Small number’ of machines affected by what users say is a worm that contacts Russian servers
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By Sam Trendall

26 Jan 2021

Laptops distributed to schools as part of government’s £250m programme to support remote learning have been found to feature malware that reportedly causes the computers to “contact Russian servers”.

Posts on an online forum for teachers, first reported on by the BBC, revealed that some schools had found that, upon activating devices they had been given for the first time “it was discovered that a number of the laptops are infected with a self-propagating network worm [called] Gamarue.I”.

“The network worm looks like it contacts Russian servers when active,” the post said, quoting a memo that had been sent to staff by the headteacher.

Other posters to the forum revealed teachers had also experienced this issue with GeoBook machines made by vendor Geo, and delivered by Computacenter – the IT firm that has served as the Department for Education’s primary partner for the Get Help With Technology Scheme, supplying the vast majority of the roughly one million devices bought by government since the start of the pandemic to help disadvantaged pupils study at home.

A DfE spokesperson told BBC News: "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. DfE IT teams are in touch with those who have reported this issue. We believe this is not widespread."

Geo added: "We have been working closely with the Department for Education regarding a reported issue on a very small number of devices. We are providing our full support during their investigation. We take all matters of security extremely seriously. Any schools that have concerns should contact the Department for Education." 

Sam Trendall is editor of CSW's sister title PublicTechnology, where this article first appeared.

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