Security Experts:

Pre-installed Lenovo Bloatware Causing More Security Problems

Lenovo's problems with pre-installed bloatware causing major security problems for computer users aren’t going away anytime soon.

On the heels of the Superfish embarrassment earlier this year, the Chinese computer manufacturer is warning that multiple vulnerabilities in the "Lenovo Solution Center" could expose millions of users to malicious hacker attacks.

The most serious of the four vulnerabilities, reported by Trustwave's SpiderLabs, could "allow a remote attacker or local user to execute arbitrary code with SYSTEM privileges," Lenovo warned in an advisory.

The vulnerabilites carry a high-severity rating.

The flaw-ridden Lenovo Security Center (LSC) comes pre-installed and activated on millions of Lenovo laptops, desktop and tablet machines.  It is meant to serve as a troubleshooting utility to allow users to perform diagnostic functions and quickly identify the status of PC system hardware and software health, network connections and the presence of security features such as firewalls or antivirus programs. 

The sofware is basically a frontend user interface and a backend service process that runs on the user's computer even if the frontend userface is turned off.

From Lenovo's advisory:

Vulnerabilities were identified within LSC’s backend service process that may allow a local user to execute arbitrary code with SYSTEM level privileges. In addition, a cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability exists that may allow exploitation of these vulnerabilities if a user opens a malicious  web site or crafted URL while the LSC backend service is running on a user’s machine.  The user’s computer may still be vulnerable even if the LSC user interface is not running.

The company confirmed the vulnerabilities are present in all versions of LSC earlier than version 3.3.0002. 

The latest security hiccups follow the discovery earlier this year of the Superfish browser add-on that was shipped on numerous Lenovo laptop models.   The Superfish adware broke HTTPS browsing and put users at risk. The company apologized to customers and issued instructions to remove the application.

Lenovo preloaded the WindowShopper browser add-on from Superfish thinking that customers would enjoy its features. However, many users were annoyed by it and started complaining on the Chinese manufacturer’s forums. After security researchers analyzed the software, they realized that it posed serious risks.

The adware injects ads into web pages by using a local proxy and a self-signed root certificate. Superfish actually replaced legitimate certificates with its own, making connections that should be secure untrusted.

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Ryan Naraine is a journalist and cybersecurity strategist with more than 20 years experience covering IT security and technology trends. He is the host of the Security Conversations podcast and a regular speaker at cybersecurity conferences around the world.

He has built security engagement programs at major global brands, including Intel Corp., and Kaspersky Lab and was co-founder and publisher of Threatpost. Ryan's career as a journalist includes bylines at major technology publications including Ziff Davis eWEEK, CBS Interactive's ZDNet, PCMag and PC World. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanaraine.