Study Shows Lenovo, Other OEM Bloatware Still Poses Huge Security Risk

from the history-repeats-itself-history-repeats-itself dept

Lenovo hasn't had what you'd call a great track record over the last few years in terms of installing insecure crapware on the company's products. You'll recall that early last year, the company was busted for installing Superfish adware that opened all of its customers up to dangerous man-in-the-middle attacks, then tried to claim they didn't see what all the fuss was about. Not too long after that, the company was busted for using a BiOS trick to reinstall its bloatware on consumer laptops upon reboot -- even if the user had installed a fresh copy of the OS.

Now Lenovo and its bloatware are making headlines once again, with the news that the company's "Accelerator Application" software makes customers vulnerable to hackers. The application is supposed to make the company's other bloatware, software, and pre-loaded tools run more quickly, but Lenovo was forced to issue a security advisory urging customers to uninstall it because it -- you guessed it -- opened them up to man-in-the-middle attacks.

The vulnerability was discovered by Duo Labs as part of a larger report on the security of pre-installed OEM software (pdf). The study found consistent security problems specifically in the software used by OEMs to keep all the other bloatware updated. Such software pretty consistently failed to make even basic use of TLS, properly validate update integrity, or verify the authenticity of update manifest contents, leaving consumers at consistent risk of remote attack. It also found that some companies even had multiple software updaters that occasionally served duplicate purposes, most of which were trivial to exploit:
"Updaters are an obvious target for a network attacker, this is a no-brainer. There have been plenty of attacks published against updaters and package management tools in the past, so we can expect OEM’s to learn from this, right? Spoiler: we broke all of them (some worse than others). Every single vendor had at least one vulnerability that could allow for a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacker to execute arbitrary code as SYSTEM. We’d like to pat ourselves on the back for all the great bugs we found, but the reality is, it’s far too easy."
And again, to be clear, Lenovo wasn't alone in being incompetent here. In fact, the firm tried to find any vendor whose bloatware didn't pose a security risk, and they couldn't actually do so:
Here's a novel idea: if OEMs can't actually learn from past mistakes and secure their bloatware, how about they do us all a favor and stop installing such crapware in the first place?

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jun 2016 @ 6:17pm

    I've gotten to where any new computer had to have Crap Cleaner run to remove the bloatware before real use. This is probably why Lenvo decided to try and sneak it in by Bios as I have to guess that many other purchasers of new computers were doing the same thing.

    Now we have the OS makers like Microsoft trying to get ahead of the game by turning the OS into an advertising platform complete with data mining.

    It's getting to where you can't find a secure OS much less a computer. At this point, even Linux isn't the answer as the NSA has been sure to have had it as an aiming point all along.

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