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School laptops sent by government arrive loaded with malware

Calls grow for Gavin Williamson to resign as the Department for Education urgently investigates

A sad girl on a laptop

Laptops issued by the UK government to support vulnerable children as they adapt to homeschooling have been found to contain malware.

Teachers have been sharing details across online forums of devices they have received from the government that contain suspicious files, the BBC has reported.

A number of the devices were found to be infected with a "self-propagating network worm", according to the forum, and they also appeared to be contacting Russian servers, one teacher wrote. The Windows-based laptops were specifically infected with Gamarue.1, a worm Microsoft identified in 2012.

The Department for Education (DfE) said it was "urgently investigating".

"We are aware of an issue with a small number of devices," the department said in a statement. "And we are investigating as an urgent priority to resolve the matter as soon as possible. DfE IT teams are in touch with those who have reported this issue. We believe this is not widespread."

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Despite the DfE's suggestion that it is a "small number", the incident will only add more pressure on Gavin Williamson, who is facing calls to resign over his performance as education secretary. The MP for South Staffordshire has been criticised for his slow response during the lockdown, particularly with getting hardware and data to the most vulnerable children. So far, more than 800,000 laptops have been shipped, an effort that has been branded as being too little, too late.

The shadow education secretary, Kate Green, has also called on Williamson to resign.

"Gavin Williamson's record throughout this pandemic has been shambolic. He has bounced from one crisis to another without learning from his mistakes or listening to the parents, pupils and hard-working education staff who have been left to deal with the fallout," she said.

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