Free laptops sent to government offices spurs FBI case

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Apparently it’s not okay to send West Virginia’s governor five free laptops. What a world! Governor Joe Manchin’s office got a nice four-pack of Compaq laptops earlier this month, followed a week later by a fifth machine from HP. The only problem was that nobody in his office ordered them or paid for them.

For safety reasons, the computers were never even turned on and the state police are now involved. Curiously, HP confirmed that the computers were ordered online but wouldn’t tell state officials who ordered them.

According to the West Virginia Gazette, “State Police will look into whether any other state agency has been charged for the equipment.” However, all five laptops were addressed directly to “Gov. Joe Manchin” at his office’s official address.

And then there’s the fact that officials in Vermont and Wyoming “received similar unsolicited orders,” according to Computerworld, which prompted the FBI to get involved. HP is now saying that it’s “aware that fraudulent state government orders recently have been placed for small amounts of HP equipment” and that “HP took prompt corrective action to address the fraudulent orders and is working with law enforcement personnel on a criminal investigation.”

The big question now is: what, if anything, is on those laptops? Some believe it could be malware or viruses intended to gain access to government networks. Security consultant Steve Santorelli told Computerworld, “What is a netbook? $700? You send five of them; you’re dropping three grand, and say you get into the Congressional e-mail system. How valuable would that be?”

The bigger question: where is this guy shopping for $700 netbooks?

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