Hewlett-Packard has distributed printer drivers corrupted by a computer virus. The infected drivers were inadvertently uploaded onto the hardware giant's Web site, according to a report by Japanese news service Nikkei.
The plague drivers, which were distributed between 17 and 19 December 2000, contained the Funlove virus. The issue only came to light after complaints from HP users, and subsequent checks in Japan revealed that 51 program files for printer and BIOS drivers for servers had become infected.
Funlove, the same virus which infected Dell's Irish manufacturing plant 14 months ago, affects Windows 95/98/NT Workstation 4.0 PCs, and increases file sizes of programs stored in the disc drives.
Despite the fact the virus is not particularly destructive, the incident is a hugely embarrassing for HP - particularly when the lead story on the firm's Web site today trumpets its participation in the Information Technology Information Sharing and Analysis Center (IT-ISAC), the IT industry cyber-crime fighting club. Oh well, at least HP's experience of distributing viruses means it won't be short of something to discuss at this IT industry talking shop.
Nikkei quotes a spokesman for HP in Japan who estimated that around 1500 downloads of infected software had occurred. "At this point, we have not received any reports of actual damage from users," he added.
It is believed that the virus was somehow uploaded onto the Linux-based server of a HP affiliate in Australia which is responsible for developing driver packages suitable for countries like Japan. HP then transfers these its web servers for local download.
Graham Cluley, of anti-virus vendor Sophos, said it was likely that the PC of a developer working on the driver software became infected, resulting in the infection on either executable files or ActiveX controls associated with the driver. These infected files were then uploaded onto HP's Web server.
Cluley added: "Destroying files isn't considered 'disastrous' as they can easily be replaced by a clean backup. The damage here is to HP's reputation. This is an 'old' virus and HP's anti-virus software should have stopped it with ease."
Hewlett-Packard has reportedly formed a special team led by Mike Rose, chief Information Officer of HP, to thoroughly re-investigate the company's security system. ®