I pointed out earlier that it was fairly astounding that Superfish was basically remaining mostly quiet on the whole controversy over its software. If you've been under a rock, earlier this week, the security community pointed out how Superfish's software (installed by default on certain Lenovo laptops) created a massive security vulnerability
. Superfish itself is adware, but that's the least of the problems. The software doesn't track your behavior like other adware, but instead tries to insert other buying options when you're viewing images of certain products. It tries to find the same or similar products that you can buy for less and tell you about them. I could see how that might be interesting for some people
on some shopping sites
if they chose
to use the software. But, by being a default bloatware install on Lenovo laptops, there was no choice. Furthermore, it apparently was trying to do this on every
website. And that's where the real problem came in.
Because many websites these days are encrypted via HTTPS (to better protect privacy), Superfish teamed up with a sneaky company named Komodia, to install a really nasty and poorly implemented "trick." It installed its own, self-signed root certificate, and would then effectively offer up fake security certificates for ANY and EVERY HTTPS connection. And, of course, it used the same key on every install, and that key was easily cracked (password: komodia), meaning that anyone who had this installed, was basically open to a massive and hugely dangerous man-in-the-middle attack on any HTTPS connection. That's HUGE.
And Superfish still won't cop to it. Its website has nothing about this whole thing. Its Facebook page has nothing. Its Twitter feed only has that post from yesterday saying that Lenovo would soon be putting out a statement clarifying things -- but Lenovo's statement (which has changed over time) admits that there were problems and the company is working hard to remove all the damage that Superfish has done. And Superfish still doesn't get it
. Its latest press statement
shows that the company is in total denial about what kind of mess it helped create. It is still defending the whole "adware" thing, rather than the security hole. And, its only comment on the security hole is "some other company did that."
Superfish Statement from CEO
There has been significant misinformation circulating about Superfish software that was pre-installed on certain Lenovo laptops. The software shipped on a limited number of computers in 2014 in an effort to enhance the online shopping experience for Lenovo customers. Superfish's software utilizes visual search technology to help users achieve more relevant search results based on images of products they have browsed.
This is not the time for your marketing speak. This is the time you apologize
for putting many, many, many people at serious risk. Stop with the PR-sanitized "enhance their shopping experience."
Despite the false and misleading statements made by some media commentators and bloggers, the Superfish software does not present a security risk. In no way does Superfish store personal data or share such data with anyone. Unfortunately, in this situation a vulnerability was introduced unintentionally by a 3rd party. Both Lenovo and Superfish did extensive testing of the solution but this issue wasn't identified before some laptops shipped. Fortunately, our partnership with Lenovo was limited in scale. We were able to address the issue quickly. The software was disabled on the server side (i.e., Superfish's search engine) in January 2015.
This statement is almost entirely pure bullshit. No one has complained about Superfish storing personal data, but it absolutely does present a security risk
. A massive one. A incredibly humungous, cannot be overstated, sized-security risk. And Superfish says it "does not present a security risk"? Bullshit. And then to say "a vulnerability was introduced unintentionally by a 3rd party." That's passing the buck. Yes, it's Komodia (which Superfish doesn't name) who appears to have done this, but it's Superfish
who decided to use Komodia's braindead stupid method of breaking HTTPS. Yes, you tested it, but your tests suck if you didn't spot this kind of security mess.
Finally, disabling the software isn't even the main part of the issue, since the dangerous root certificate still remained after that. And, yes, actions are now being taken to fix that, but no thanks to Supefish and its refusal to admit what happened.
Superfish takes great pride in the quality of its software, the transparency of its business practices, and its strong relationship with the Superfish user community. Superfish's visual search technology enables millions of people to explore and learn about the world in an engaging and highly intuitive manner. A positive user experience has been the cornerstone of Superfish's success.
Again, bullshit. If you took great pride in the quality of your software, you'd stop this marketing-speak and admit that you seriously screwed up and put many people at risk. Anyone with a modicum of understanding of how HTTPS and certificate systems work would recognize quickly what a dangerous situation this was, but neither Superfish nor Lenovo did. At least Lenovo now seems to be trying to make things right, while Superfish remains in total denial, hoping that a combination of mostly silence and bullshit "statements from the CEO" written by marketing are the way to solve this mess.
This is not how you solve a mess up of this size. You need to own it. You need to come clean and admit that you messed up, how you messed up, why you messed up and what you're going to do to make sure it never, ever happens again. Superfish didn't do that, and at this point it's probably too late to try to turn that around.