Portable hard discs sold locally and produced by US disk-drive manufacturer Seagate Technology have been found to carry Trojan horse viruses that automatically upload to Beijing Web sites anything the computer user saves on the hard disc, the Investigation Bureau said.
Around 1,800 of the portable Maxtor hard discs, produced in Thailand, carried two Trojan horse viruses: autorun.inf and ghost.pif, the bureau under the Ministry of Justice said.
The tainted portable hard disc uploads any information saved on the computer automatically and without the owner's knowledge to www.nice8.org and www.we168.org, the bureau said.
The affected hard discs are Maxtor Basics 500G discs.
The bureau said that hard discs with such a large capacity are usually used by government agencies to store databases and other information.
Sensitive information may have already been intercepted by Beijing through the two Web sites, the bureau said.
The bureau said that the method of attack was unusual, adding that it suspected Chinese authorities were involved.
In recent years, the Chinese government has run an aggressive spying program relying on information technology and the Internet, the bureau said.
The bureau said this was the first time it had found that Trojan horse viruses had been placed on hard discs before they even reach the market.
The bureau said that it had instructed the product's Taiwanese distributor, Xander International, to remove the products from shelves immediately.
The bureau said that it first received complaints from consumers last month, saying they had detected Trojan horse viruses on brand new hard discs purchased in Taiwan.
Agents began examining hard discs on the market and found the viruses linked to the two Web sites.
Anyone who has purchased this kind of hard disc should return it to the place of purchase, the bureau said.
The distributor told the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) that the company had sold 1,800 tainted discs to stores last month.
It said it had pulled 1,500 discs from shelves, while the remaining 300 had been sold by the stores to consumers.
Seagate's Asian Pacific branch said it was looking into the matter.