Lenovo Backtracks on Adware Following Snooping Concerns

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The SuperFish adware posed a huge problem for Lenovo after security experts proved it could be used to snoop on online activity.
The SuperFish adware posed a huge problem for Lenovo after security experts proved it could be used to snoop on online activity.

One of China’s largest electronics manufacturers has apologized after its computer users complained about third-party advertisement software that may have been spying on secure online transactions.

In a news release published on Thursday, Lenovo acknowledged it had installed software called SuperFish on dozens of laptop models sold around the world.

Lenovo says SuperFish — advertisement software developed by a California-based company — was designed to “enhance our user experience,” although it appears to have had exactly the opposite effect. Lenovo stopped installing SuperFish on laptops after customers began complaining about the software in online forums. The forum posts were cited earlier this week in a story by Owen Williams for The Next Web, which further escalated angry customer feedback.

According to reports, SuperFish attached itself to two of the world’s most-used web browsers: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Google’s Chrome. A Lenovo administrator told customers that the software was designed as a price comparison tool that would analyze images of products and point users to potentially lower prices at other merchants.

But security experts warn SuperFish likely went farther than that. According to some users, SuperFish has the ability to snoop on seemingly secure web protocols, such as those used in online banking. Lenovo didn’t address this point in their release on Thursday, but did say the company was working with SuperFish’s creators to “address any possible security issues.”

Lenovo said the software was never installed on its desktop PCs, smartphones, enterprise hardware or top-of-the-line ThinkPad laptops. The server that allowed SuperFish to run was shut down by Lenovo in January following customer complaints, the company said. Lenovo has also provided a guide on how to uninstall the software.

“By the end of this month, we will announce a plan to help lead Lenovo and our industry forward with deeper knowledge, more understanding and even greater focus on issues surrounding adware, pre-installs and security,” Lenovo said.

Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine

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