Samsung Accused Of Installing Secret Keyloggers On New Laptops 'To Monitor Performance' [Updated]

from the that's-not-going-to-go-over-well dept

See update at the bottom

According to a report by Mohamed Hassan at Network World, Samsung has been installing secret keyloggers on laptops. After setting up a new laptop, he ran a scan and found an installation of StarLogger, a commercial keylogger program. It's a rather nefarious piece of software:
This key logger is completely undetectable and starts up whenever your computer starts up. See everything being typed: emails, messages, documents, web pages, usernames, passwords, and more. StarLogger can email its results at specified intervals to any email address undetected so you don't even have to be at the computer your[sic] are monitoring to get the information. The screen capture images can also be attached automatically to the emails as well as automatically deleted.
Hassan claims to have found the same keylogger on two separate laptops from Samsung, and after calling the company, finally had a supervisor claim that the company did it to monitor usage:
On March 1, 2011, I called and logged incident 2101163379 with Samsung Support (SS). First, as Sony BMG did six years ago, the SS personnel denied the presence of such software on its laptops. After having been informed of the two models where the software was found and the location, SS changed its story by referring the author to Microsoft since "all Samsung did was to manufacture the hardware." When told that did not make sense, SS personnel relented and escalated the incident to one of the support supervisors.

The supervisor who spoke with me was not sure how this software ended up in the new laptop thus put me on hold. He confirmed that yes, Samsung did knowingly put this software on the laptop to, as he put it, "monitor the performance of the machine and to find out how it is being used."
Of course, it's entirely possible that the supervisor was confused as well. Frankly, like some others, I find it hard to believe that Samsung corporate policy could be so clueless as to install secret keyloggers on all laptops. If it is true, however, I imagine the company will be facing one hell of a lawsuit in the very near future.

Update: It looks like my skepticism on this story may have been justified. Samsung is claiming that the researcher got a false positive, and confused a language folder for a keylogger:
"Our findings indicate that the person mentioned in the article used a security program called VIPRE that mistook a folder created by Microsoft’s Live Application for a key logging software, during a virus scan.

"The confusion arose because VIPRE mistook Microsoft's Live Application multi-language support folder, labelled 'SL,' as StarLogger. Depending on the language, under C:\Windows folders are created labelled 'SL' for Slovene, 'KO' for Korean, 'EN' for English."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:14pm

    I don't think that phrase means what the developer thinks it means

    This key logger is completely undetectable


    Whoops.

     

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    Miff (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:22pm

    Yet another reason for using white box computers instead of OEMs.

    And yet another reason why we need a universal standard for laptop hardware. :x

     

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  •  
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    Spaceboy (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:26pm

    Does the US government or military rely on Samsung laptops?

     

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    •  
      identicon
      TheStupidOne, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 3:12pm

      Re:

      I'd hope that the gov't and military use only internally built images and standard hardware as well as not let anybody outside of IT have admin right to their computers

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:34pm

    Spy on me!

    It will be interesting to see how Samsung responds to this. I don't know if the SS really knows they pre-installed the keylogger. Samsung PR hasn't replied to inquiries, so ratcheting up the pressure from consumer and privacy advocate groups will be a must. I have read one of the fears of getting all our electronics from China is that this leaves the ability of the Chinese government to install such spying software/malware. If Samsung really knew about this then it is sad since I generally like their products and they have really good customer support in the few times I had to deal with them.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:54pm

      Re: Spy on me!

      I have a 40 in Samsung TV....do you think its watching me?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 3:34pm

        Re: Re: Spy on me!

        You may want to put the TV outside when you are playing with the wife.

         

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        •  
          identicon
          Samsung Support, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 4:04pm

          Re: Re: Re: Spy on me!

          But then we won't be able to watch

           

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          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 6:26pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Spy on me!

            You have a camera on a tripod pointing to the couch where you are playing with your wife that is connected to your Samsung TV?

            Holly cow!

             

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        •  
          identicon
          Pixelation, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 7:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: Spy on me!

          "You may want to put the TV outside when you are playing with the wife."

          Why? a few seconds of your hairy ass and the TV will shut itself off. Problem solved.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
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    Markus Hopkins (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:42pm

    Remember Kids...

    Practice safe computing. Always put on a fresh operating system before using a new computer, because you never know where it's been.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      MrWilson, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:51pm

      Re: Remember Kids...

      Or rather, you do know where it's been and that's why you should be concerned.

       

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      •  
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        Markus Hopkins (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:56pm

        Re: Re: Remember Kids...

        Yes and no. You know the manufacturer its from, but as we've seen from the pics of the iPhone factory workers, that really doesn't mean much. On top of that, anything can happen at the retail level. And finally, on top of all of that, you have no idea what "partnerships" have been made with OEMs for preinstalled bloatware. So most joking aside, you really have no idea what's going on in there, and a clean install is the best - and only reliably safe - solution.

         

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    Matthew (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:48pm

    This story may be premature.

    After reading the original piece, i'm not convinced that Samsung is to blame, despite their apparent confession. The confession came from a mid-level tech support manager. I don't know about you, but i wouldn't trust one of those guys to find his own ass with a map and a gps, so it's plausible that he incorrectly confessed, confusing the keylogger with some legitimate performance monitoring tool.
    Hassan bought the two computers from the same store. It's much more likely that someone there is behind it.

    I'm not saying Samsung didn't do it, just that it might not be as open-and-shut as it appears at first glance.

     

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    HothMonster, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 2:52pm

    "SS personnel denied the presence of such software on its laptops. After having been informed of the two models where the software was found and the location, SS changed its story by referring the author to Microsoft since "all Samsung did was to manufacture the hardware." When told that did not make sense, SS personnel relented and escalated the incident to one of the support supervisors. "

    Samsung Support might want to consider changing their name to Samsung customer support, or tech support or whatever.

    Although in light of moves like this SS may be an appropriate acronym

     

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    identicon
    Chris Brand, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 3:42pm

    Performance of what ?

    Could be a very good test of the performance of the class action lawsuit process, I'd think...

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 3:48pm

      Re: Performance of what ?

      All a class action suit ever does is enrich the lawyers. It provides no meaningful penalty (other than a slight monetary loss which can be written off as an operating expense) to those sued, and no meaningful award to those suing.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 4:29pm

    Thus neatly demonstrating that...

    ...they learned nothing from the Sony debacle.

    They're going to be crucified for this, and they should be.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Infowars, Mar 30th, 2011 @ 4:43pm

    I have an answer....

    Buy a Mac.. (so you get some real monitoring tools built into the system to check for crap like this)

     

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    Jojoyojimbi (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 5:13pm

    Join the list now Samsung

    I've been boycotting Sony products since their rootkit debacle of yesteryear... looks like it's time for Samsung to join the list.

    I just wish the ignorant masses cared enough about their privacy and rights to pay attention to what's going on around them and help me vote with my wallet. Instead they probably own three playstations and four samsung tvs

     

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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 5:33pm

    Booting up my new Samsung...

    Language to install: Fuck you.
    Time and Currency format: Fuck you.
    Keyboard or input method: One finger.

    Do you accept the license terms?: [Y]es [N]o [F]uck you.

    Type a user name (for example, John or Traceme):
    Fuck You

    Type a computer name:
    SRSLY Fuck You

    Type a password (recommended):
    Make Me

    No, seriously, type a password (completely safe!):
    *******

    Password rejected. Please use characters other than "asterisk":
    fUckY0uFuCkyOUfuKKyouOKdogFuCKer

     

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    Thomas (profile), Mar 30th, 2011 @ 6:27pm

    You would think.

    they would have learned something from the Sony rootkit fiasco. I'm sure the feds will love to find out that Samsung is installing keyloggers. Just imagine if the feds find some computers in DOJ are from Samsung and have been feeding info to Samsung about what the government is doing.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Pete Austin, MarketingXD, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 12:14am

    Checked my Samsung: *NOT INFECTED*

    Just checked my Samsung laptop, bought from Amazon UK about 6 weeks ago, running 64 bit Windows. NOT INFECTED.

    Has anyone independently confirmed the original blogger?

     

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    identicon
    ender, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 1:31am

    At least it's only a software keylogger

    This guy apparently found a hardware keylogger in his Dell laptop: http://virus.org.ua/unix/keylog/klog.htm

     

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    identicon
    Anunimus Kowerd, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 1:51am

    This is going to hurt.

    The repercussions are going to be big with this one. I was getting close to pulling the trigger on a new 52" HDTV and bluray player for upstairs, but have decided not to after reading this horrific news. Thankfully the printer I helped my parents pick out last week is still within the time constraint for getting a full refund as well. Hopefully Samsung isn't behind this and its just a stupid punk somewhere in the supply chain taking advantage of an opportunity. Until I know for sure, I can't in good conscious continue to support them in ANY fashion. If they are guilty of doing this, then I pray that, in addition to widespread boycotting, they are procsecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Keylogging spyware? That is about as big and bad of a no no as you can get these days.

     

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    Jan Bilek (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 2:18am

    Samsung claims that there was no spyware and it was just false positive: http://www.thinq.co.uk/2011/3/31/samsung-denies-installing-keyloggers-laptops/

     

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    identicon
    abc gum, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 4:53am

    Guys! ... this was a simple mistake.
    Obviously, these people were sold laptops intended for jr & sr high school students.
    /s

     

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    identicon
    Roger H, Mar 31st, 2011 @ 6:21am

    I have a new samsung R710

    After reading the post by Mohammed (forwarded through a LinkedIn Group), I found the SL folder, and did some digging.

    The folder contains a .mui file (language/localization file) for the photo screensaver.

    Pretty innocuous, and unfortunately named the same as a known keylogger.

     

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    Brian Schroth (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 6:29am

    Hmmmm...

    "he ran a scan and [b]found an installation[/b] of StarLogger, a commercial keylogger program. It's a rather nefarious piece of software:

    This key logger is [b]completely undetectable[/b]..."

    DOES NOT COMPUTE

     

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 6:56am

    Yay Italics

    Something about the ending of the article with italics seems to have every comment in this thread in italics, as well as every post on the home page beneath it in italics. Interesting. =)

     

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      Killer_Tofu (profile), Mar 31st, 2011 @ 10:31am

      Re: Yay Italics

      Ok. Either it was fixed, or my browser isn't doing its glitch this time. One or the other. Probably just a glitch in my browser before eh?

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Jose_X, Apr 3rd, 2011 @ 1:37pm

    Biggest keylogger

    I don't use Microsoft operating systems, but have people read their EULAs. They naturally have the easiest path to tracking users (it's their OS), and their EULAs (if what I read is faithful) give them legal cover.

    Microsoft also has many partners who pay for special information. ... People waste time with Samsung this or that. Do like Russia, Google, and numerous others have done by avoiding Windows altogether.

    [Low cost without worry about costly legal action is another good reason to use Linux: http://jeffhoogland.blogspot.com/2011/03/dialog-with-girlfriend.html]

     

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    tellmewhy121 (profile), Apr 8th, 2011 @ 1:45am

    stealth keylogger

    It is said there is No keylogger software in samsung laotops, just a bad scare.

     

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    identicon
    Laney Smith, Jun 14th, 2011 @ 1:12am

    Yeah, while coming into keylogger, i want to talk sth. about [url=http://www.amackeylogger.com]kelogger for mac[/url]. Though it is my first time using it, it really leaves me a good impression.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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