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Dell warns on spyware infected server motherboards

Windows snoopware buried in server firmware

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Updated Dell is warning customers that there is malware on some of its server motherboards.

The PowerEdge R410 Rack server has spyware within its embedded systems management software.

The direct seller is sending customers letters warning of the danger and also telephoning those affected.

A post in a support forum says customers should hear from Dell shortly. It does not provide any technical explanation of what type of spyware is included with the hardware or what extra cleaning process customers should go through.

Some forms of malware are likely to have spread if the hardware has been attached to a network.

We've put calls in to Dell UK and will update this story when we hear more.

The forum post, from yesterday morning, is here.

The forum poster was concerned not to have more technical information - and that the call he received to book technical support said the call might not happen for up to ten days.

In response a Dell support staffer said there was an issue with a small number of service motherboard stock - new PowerEdge systems are not infected. He said the malware would not infect non-Windows servers.

Update:

Dell sent us the following statement:

“Dell is aware of the issue and is contacting affected customers. The issue affects a limited number of replacement motherboards in four servers - PowerEdge R310, PowerEdge R410, PowerEdge R510 and PowerEdge T410 – and only potentially manifests itself when a customer has a specific configuration and is not running current anti-virus software.

This issue does not affect systems as shipped from our factory and is limited to replacement parts only. Dell has removed all impacted motherboards from its service supply chain and new shipping replacement stock does not contain the malware.

Customers can find more information on Dell’s community forum.” – Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager of server platforms at Dell.

Fortunately the forum has also been updated with information which answers some of the relevant questions - the malware was found in the flash on motherboards, not in firmware. It is a W32.Spybot worm which should be detected by any decent anti-virus software.

Dell said that less than one per cent of boards shipped have the infection. Systems using an iDRAC Express or iDRAC Enterprise card will not be damaged. In fact systems will only be hit if you run an update to either Unified Server Configurator (USC) or 32-bit Diagnostics.

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