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Testing confirms Samsung keylogger rumour just a false alarm

Keep calm and carry on

Updated Antivirus testers have backed up Samsung's protestations that the detection of keylogging software on brand-new Samsung laptops was just a false alarm.

Mohamed Hassan, founder of security consultancy NetSec, raised the alarm after a scan revealed that two newly purchased Samsung laptops were infected with StarLogger, a commercial keylogger. Hassan investigated the matter before working on a story for NetWork World that compared the incident to the infamous Sony BMG rootkit fiasco of 2005.

It was suggested that Samsung was using underhand methods to extract market research, monitoring user activity without their knowledge or consent in the process. Hassan was eventually put through to a Samsung support centre manager who told him that Samsung had pre-loaded software to "monitor the performance of the machine and to find out how it is being used".

Samsung quickly denied it was doing anything of the sort before issuing a more detailed statement saying that the confusion stemmed from the installation of the Microsoft Live! application suite. The Slovenian language version of the suite creates a folder called C:\Windows\SL, the same folder name as is used by the StarLogger application and it was this that was causing alarm bells to ring.

Testing by antivirus researchers this morning confirmed that VIPRE Antivirus detects 'StarLogger' after creating a 'SL' folder on a clean PC. Even an empty folder with no files in it creates this behaviour, as illustrated in a test screenshot here.

Although the whole incident (which excited a great deal of commentary from antivirus vendors – examples here and here) has therefore been revealed as a false alarm, encountered in good faith, it does raise a couple of secondary questions. Firstly, why VIPRE Antivirus, from GFI Software, detects malware in empty folders simply because of their name, and secondly about the quality of information provided by Samsung's tech support staff. ®

Update

GFI, which publishes VIPRE, has confirmed that the whole kerfuffle was down to a false alarm.

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