$100 Laptops To Create Next Generation Of Malware Authors?

from the wishful-thinking dept

The head of anti-virus research for Kaspersky Labs says that sending cheap laptops to poor nations could help create a huge class of malware authors as an unintended consequence. While it’s true that people don’t often enough consider unintended consequences, these comments seem to ignore the main idea behind providing people with cheap laptops or other computing devices — economic empowerment. It’s inevitable that some people will use the devices for nefarious purposes, it’s hard to see the economic benefits of such activities — when compared to the legitimate economic opportunities the programs are intended to create — being attractive enough to create a large-scale problem. There have been online extortion scams and other financially driven malware schemes, but the spread of computers and net connectivity into poorer nations isn’t creating a widespread plague. Perhaps when you work in the anti-virus and security industry you’re conditioned to expect the worst of people, but to think that giving poor people cheap computers will make them all into hackers is a bit extreme.

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Comments on “$100 Laptops To Create Next Generation Of Malware Authors?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Linux based system!

How do you run Linux on that system you bought that came with Windows? What? You mean you were able to install a different OS than the one it came with? Next you’ll be telling me these people will be able to pirate a copy of Windows to run on the $100 computer.

Brad Clarkston says:

Re: Re: Linux based system!

That’s incredibly faulty logic as I have an IBook and MacBook Pro so they did not come with an MS OS. I haven’t bought a machine with an MS product preloaded since Win98 first launched.

The simple fact is that these will be bought and used by schools in third world countries and not mass marketed.

Yes a few of them will be black marketed but not enough to cause that type of panic.

This is just another Anti-Virus company/MS FUD tactic.

Ray Trygstad (profile) says:


In the bad old days under Communism, a very high percentage of viruses came out of Bulgaria, which never made much sense as there were probably very, very few PCs in the entire country; I think those concerned with this potential threat are looking back on that. There is also the concern that if economic empowerment does not come about from cheap computing, the frustrated cheap computer owners may turn to revenge.

Jed Weber says:

Re: Bulgaria

“if economic empowerment does not come about from cheap computing, the frustrated cheap computer owners may turn to revenge.”

Yeah, or they may turn to porn. Or role-playing games. Or YouTube! Or blogging! Or music downloading. We have no idea what the f**k they might do, because the situation doesn’t exist, so why should we worry about it?

Confused Middleclass Kid says:

Re: Re: Exactly

Ok, I’m just a middle class kid for now. However, I do aspire to be in that elite rich folk crowd. I don’t see/understand how why keeping others down would help me either on my way up, or once I do make it up there.

Sometimes I think we take everything that people with money do as being a giant conspiracy againsh those without. Rather than sit around and complain about how bad everything is, I’m planning on getting off my ass and making it for myself. If your too lazy to do that, and enjoy being the apathetic corporate drone, then shut up about how the man is keeping you down. A little initiave is all it takes.

Ok, now back to the article…umm if you expect the worst from people then you’ll probably see/get it. I know I’m still young and optimistic, but I still think that there is (at least some) good in people.

The rant is officially over…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Exactly

However, I do aspire to be in that elite rich folk crowd. I don’t see/understand how why keeping others down would help me either on my way up, or once I do make it up there.

If you don’t understand that, then you’ll never make it. And don’t ask me to explain it to you, because I won’t. Now get back in line.

karbon says:

Re: Re: Re: Exactly

I personally see fairly clear what advantage there is to keeping the poor poor. It eliminates the threat, just as in any ‘Prophetic Savior’ story, we see the leader that fears the ‘prophecy’ kill those that could match the prophecy in the future before they can affect the leader.

I’m not saying those that have things all want to keep those that don’t in the same position. What I am saying is that there is ample reason to rid yourself of potential threats of your power.

This is coming from another not-yet-rich-middle-class-young person… and when my research company takes off, I’ll encourage innovation, but I won’t be throwing away the company to do so. It’s competition.

Confused Middleclass Kid says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Exactly

Ok, I was being a little broad with my statements. However, more of what I was meaning was that I don’t see the benfit of keeping ALL poor people poor.

You said that you would encourage innovation, but not at the cost of competition, and I agree. However, more of what I was meaning was that in areas not directly competing with you, why would you want to hold people back? Let them make more $$$ which can eventually be spent on your goods/services.

Didn’t think I was going to get this much debate.

Richard Moriarty says:

Re: Re: Re: Exactly

Ambition is one reason the class system is in place. Yes, you can go above and beyond to join the other elite rich, but you’ll learn that to maintain your position you have to keep everyone else in line. Also, you’ll learn there isn’t room for everyone in the top, even if everyone was ambitious.

Confused Middleclass Kid says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Exactly

Here is probably the main point of the rant….

I know that not everyone is capable/would even want to be the people at the top. As a result, there is room enough at the top for those that want to get there.

Now, for everyone that just doesn’t want to be there…STOP COMPLAINING about how they make more money than they are worth, give themselves silver parachutes, etc. You have the same opportunity to do it, you CHOOSE not to, period.

One classic example of the whining I hate is whenever a tax-cut for the rich is proposed. People get all up in arms about “why should THEY get a break”… they can afford it…blah blah blah. First of all, THEY are providing most of the $$$ into the system AND they aren’t getting the most of the benefit. The gov’t parasites that ARE lazy, want handouts because its their “right” cost the population in general a HUGE amount of money.

Now, as far as calling everyone on this post lazy, that wasn’t the case. I was just saying that you are (in general) going to get out of life what you put into it. If you really don’t care, just living day-to-day, etc then that is all great and good, just don’t expect to enjoy the same benefits the people that are busting their asses do.

Now on to the post later that was talking about how people aren’t talking about the article. Sorry that the rant was a little off-topic, however, it was directed at what I feel is the heart of the matter.

There will almost be uninteneded consequences for anything that is released to the general public. However, that is what makes things interesting. Google gave people 2 gig of email, then people create programs that could create a virtual mountable harddrive based on the storage. Instead of getting all pissy, taking their toys and going home…what did they do? They just indexed what people were putting on there, did data-mining, and gave their advertising customers an even better profile of those type of users.

Point being, if all you do is fear the unintended consequnces then your going to spend more time and resources on counter-measures and unproductive actions. If you embrace them, and look for ways to improve then everyone will benefit.

If malware does stem from these, then that probably means that there was financial incentive to do it. So, just create open contests of ways to prevent it. Instead of letting the few bad apples ruin it for everyone, give the others a chance to help themselves…benefit for everyone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Exactly

“Rather than sit around and complain about how bad everything is, I’m planning on getting off my ass and making it for myself. If your too lazy to do that, and enjoy being the apathetic corporate drone, then shut up about how the man is keeping you down.”

Damn, those kids just seem to know EVERYTHING!

Idealism is so cute.

I, for one says:

Re: Re: Re: Exactly

Yourself and the poster to whom you reply have confused two issues by adjoining the words “rich” and “elite”. While it’s true that the elite are, on the whole, rich, there is no significant connection between the two things in this case. The “elite” are those who hold power, and it is axiomatic that they represent deeply conservative forces opposed to change in all its forms.

It’s great that you aspire to better living, but you are in the same boat as all the rest of us in our declining economies here. Have you noticed that our western countries don’t actually do anything any longer? We have no primary industry or manufacturing, the service sector has been taken by immigrant labor and we are promised a new age of information economics. So what is *our* role in that economy? If you think it is as producers, think again.

You need to think clearly about what those who use the term “information economy” really mean by those two words. Do they mean that we will produce and process information as our contribution to the global economy? That we will all become shareholders in our collective IP? No. They mean that information will replace money as currency. Those with the information and access to it will be “rich” and those without it will be “poor”, and since information is power the status quo is preserved. So, holding on to power is about constricting and controlling means of others empowerment, in this case preventing 3rd world citizens accessing powerful information processing devices. Now, the idea of a global information economy is so flawed that it is a distaster of appocolyptic proportions in the making, but that is a discussion for another day, in the here and now you must realise that people like yourself, the hard working, aspiring middle classes have the most to lose by allowing a powerful elite to consolidate control over free exchange of information. Handing out the tools of information empowerment to poor citizens is anathema to people who subscribe to these twisted theories.

To help you make sense of it, analyse the context of this article. On the face of it an anti-malware company should be delighted by the emergence of new potential source of malware. It’s in their best interests to just shut up about it and hope that they are right. Why would they make this statement? Making this public statement is counter to their interests, ergo they are, as “experts” behaving as actors disseminating paid for propaganda by other interests. Of course since we know information is valuable, in this case the gold is in finding who has been talking to Kaspersky labs recently.

kurt wismer (user link) says:

these comments seem to ignore the main idea behind providing people with cheap laptops or other computing devices — economic empowerment.

computers do indeed open up opportunities, both legitimate and illegitimate… i believe the issue to which kaspersky may be referring is that the illegitimate ones may not seem quite so bad to people in developing nations…

but the spread of computers and net connectivity into poorer nations isn’t creating a widespread plague

because access is still beyond the reach of most people in those areas… connectivity doesn’t mean anything if only the wealthy have the hardware to do anything with it…

Bill M. says:

Racism by another name

If a certain percentage of computer users use them for improper activities, then yes, dramatically increasing the overall number of computer users will indeed create new “hackers.” However, to suggest that empowering the people of third-world nations will lead to a disproportionate number of them being used improperly is nothing but racism.

Anonymous Coward says:

That’s the way it is poor people. You gotta keep ’em down or else they’ll start gettin’ all uppity and stuff. There’s just no tellin’ what they’ll start doin’ if you go an’ empower ’em.

Also, the US government is wanting ISP’s to start keeping records of everyone’s online activities. Who’s going to watch these third world people? We can’t trust their governments to do it properly. The poor villager of today could turn into the international terrorist of tomorrow given a computer. Next thing you know, we’re seein’ mushroom clouds over America. Does anyone want to see that? No, of course not. Better to keep them away from things like computers and the internet. Better safe than sorry.

And finally there’s the specter of third world file sharing popping up. How’re the **AA and other copyright holders supposed to deal with that? Piracy’s bad enough over there already.

Unless, of course, these things come with some kind of non-removable DRM and monitoring software built in. I bet trusted companies like M$, Sony, and Intel could get together and whip something up like that. Then it would be OK.

Petréa Mitchell says:

It's not the $100 laptop

Reading the Register article you linked to, it seems to me that he was complaining about the traffic in secondhand Windows machines, not the $100 laptop campaign. Not, mind you, that I think the movement of secondhand Windows machines is going to noticeably contribute to the production of viruses either.

man says:

I wish I had one of those labtops. I need a computer hookup for the ECU in my car, and I don’t want to waste $1000 on something that I’ll rarely [even have the time to] touch.

Who cares if there’s more malware coming out of this, only aol users, general idiots, and soccer moms(or dads) will actually be affected by these scams – and they’re being affected whether the malware was developed in California or Somalia, it doesn’t make a difference.

The poor person trying to sell free magazines. says:

Who will give me $100?

It took me 20 years to master a computer, and (of course) there is so much more I need to know, and would like to know. Heck, I don’t even know if I can master the art of creating malware.

If I was living on the streets poor or had no job poor, I would not spend my time learning the computer, to scam some American. I would be selling that Laptop, to the next American that came to my country, or just not even get one.

There is nothing like cash money when you have to feed your self or your family.

Everyone has their panties in a bunch for nothing. pfft.

Walter Dnes says:

What *REALLY* worries anti-virus companies...

…is the thought of hundreds of millions of people running relatively virus-immune linux (there’s no such thing as “absolute immunity”). This will wake up people in the developed world. Once they start using an OS which doesn’t require anti-virus programs, the anti-virus companies will be out of business.

Bryce says:


i know im adding to my argument here, but most people here didnt even comment about the article, they argued about stupid things. id say its about time that someone filtered these comments to whats on topic.

i commend anyone who actually commented on the article and didnt partake in the childish games like the first post thing, and then the kid that called everyone lazy.

Amerin says:

You have got to be kidding..

six degrees of seperation, how do you get from charity of entry level computing to “They are going to breed World crippling Hackers?”

Hell we have a whole country of dis-enchanted youths with high powerd computers, High speed Links, Unlimited time, and unlmited research ability, a much more likely construct.

Cheap laptops, IE crap no one in a 1st world country could put up with.

Hey if they get them, will they learn to speak/read english, to use them?

Hey! when they go to work for Dell at least we might be able to understand them.

Suck them all into our world of High tech electronics, that they have to upgrade constantly, instead of buying food, housing, they could be spending their hard earned wages buying WOW monthly fee’s too

Fearmongers UNITE !

Parched says:

Offering computers to those who may not otherwise be able to obtain them is a means of offering information and education.

Of couse educating people is empowering them. In any population, some people are not nice and will misuse any opportunity. In the same vein, most are normal folks who merely want an opportunity to acheive but another small percentage will be the brilliant ones who may help improve the world.

These are the same types of outcomes that public libraries afforded in the United States. Keeping everyone uneducated, to me, seems a stupid way to avoid risk.

kurt wismer (user link) says:

folks are missing the point

the INTENDED consequence of giving computers to developing countries is to help them become more educated and more empowered, and that is of course a good thing…

but what people are missing is that the socio-economic climate in those countries will not change as quickly as the people will be empowered… there will not be an existing framework of high tech jobs for those empowered people to go into… they will have to build their industries from whatever state they’re currently in in order to make room for all those newly empowered people and that will take time…

in the mean time you’ll have a bunch of people with the means to do more technical work, and the expectation that they should be able to do it but no actual employment opportunities that would satisfy those expectations… when one has a large disparity between expectations and opportunities to fulfill those expectations one of the social adaptations to that state is crime (it’s not the only adaptation to that state and that’s not the only reason crime comes about, but it is a recognized outcome)…

giving computers to poor countries is like giving a bandaid to someone with a gaping wound, it’s not enough to address the problem it’s intended to address and winds up having unintended consequences… the unintended consequence of cyber-empowerment without corresponding growth in opportunities could very well be cyber-crime…

Jeff (profile) says:


Great! Now some third-world nation with a bunch of cheap laptops and internet telephony can open up a new call center and compete with the new Offshoring companies. Not enough that we create whole new industries in other countries by Offshoring, why not create the competition for those offshorers too? If there’s any U.S. parts in any of those laptops, we might just be able to make some new jobs here in the States! LMAO.

Norman B. (profile) says:

What kind of malware are they going to be authoring on these $100 systems…and why would they use THESE computers for that? This is an unusual case of paranoia, and I think it is also slightly motivated by greed. I am all for keeping the world free from malware, but wanting to keep computers from those in need, just to alleviate a non-existent risk, seems irrational and bordering on cruel.

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