Lenovo has been caught red handed; shipping laptops with what essentially appears to be malware preinstalled.
The adware, dubbed Superfish, issues its own self-signed root certificates, allowing it to collect user data from web browsers. It then places adverts into browser sessions without the user having any say in the matter. Security professionals are saying that the fact that Superfish can issue its own certificates elevates it from nuisance adware into the realm of malware and could potenitally pose a security threat.
The revelation of the adware will do no favours for the company as it struggles to win the trust of businesses following the acquisition of IBM’s x86 sever division. It has been alleged that Lenovo’s hardware is banned from secure government networks in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand due to potential backdoor vulnerabilities.
Users began complaining about the adware towards the end of 2013 and today the situation reached a head with the Chinese powerhouse issuing the following statement:
Superfish was previously included on some consumer notebook products shipped in a short window between September and December to help customers potentially discover interesting products while shopping. However, user feedback was not positive, and we responded quickly and decisively:
- Superfish has completely disabled server side interactions (since January) on all Lenovo products so that the product is no longer active. This disables Superfish for all products in market.
- Lenovo stopped preloading the software in January.
- We will not preload this software in the future.
We have thoroughly investigated this technology and do not find any evidence to substantiate security concerns. But we know that users reacted to this issue with concern, and so we have taken direct action to stop shipping any products with this software. We will continue to review what we do and how we do it in order to ensure we put our user needs, experience and priorities first.
To be clear, Superfish technology is purely based on contextual/image and not behavioral. It does not profile nor monitor user behavior. It does not record user information. It does not know who the user is. Users are not tracked nor re-targeted. Every session is independent. Users are given a choice whether or not to use the product. The relationship with Superfish is not financially significant; our goal was to enhance the experience for users. We recognize that the software did not meet that goal and have acted quickly and decisively.
We are providing support on our forums for any user with concerns. Our goal is to find technologies that best serve users. In this case, we have responded quickly to negative feedback, and taken decisive actions to ensure that we address these concerns. If users still wish to take further action, detail information is available at http://forums.lenovo.com.