Maybe it is time to thank Lenovo?

I just wouldn’t buy their computers.

I wrote the other day about the problem Lenovo is having.  They contracted with a company called Superfish and installed some crapware on your computer (if you bought a Lenovo consumer grade computer) that shoved ads at you.

That wouldn’t be that much of a problem – everyone from Facebook to GMail does it – until it was discovered that Superfish used a library from Komodia that hacks into your SSL encrypted traffic to look at your banking traffic, along with everything else, to figure out what ads to show you.

That would have been bad enough if the way they hacked into your SSL (https) encrypted traffic didn’t completely compromise the security of your computer.

Here is the part where we need to thank Lenovo.  They shined a bright light on some digital cockroaches and there is a lot of scurrying.

Microsoft and other vendors have now, correctly, classified the Komodia software as spyware and flag, quarantine and/or delete it, depending on your system’s configuration.  What was discovered was that Komodia sold their software to lots of firms – not just Superfish – so that crap is all around you.  They said on their web site that they had over 100 development firms using their software.  They very blatently said that hacking your client’s SSL traffic is hard to do, so let us do it.

Now, ARS Technica, a well respected geek site, is reporting that researchers have found evidence of Komodia based attacks against users of GMail, Amazon, eBay and Twitter, among many other sites.

The details are very geeky, so I am not going to bore most people – click on the link above to read the ARS Technica article if you are interested.

Suffice it to say, Komodia is in a world of hurt, business wise.  Their site was down for a while and no one in the tech world will touch them with a 10 foot pole for fear, rightfully, of guilt by association.

Sadly, what they were trying to do is probably not much worse than what a lot of advertising brokers do – it is just that they took a few “shortcuts” that have come back to bite them in the rear.

The moral of the story is that security MUST be a key component of the development process and an outside advisor (advertisement: like me!) is probably requisite.  Otherwise, the fox (the developers) will be guarding the henhouse (the architecture and design) and that sometimes does not turn out well.

One last thought that requires that you put on your tin foil hat.  What if an unnamed three letter agency was interested in targeting your web traffic?  Getting you to install some Komodia based software under some guise would allow them to totally own your computer.  Note that I am not saying that Komodia is an NSA plot, but if they were smart, they would do something like this – and probably already have.

That means that you should not count on using SSL (Https) encryption for anything that you really want to be secure.  You need to use a completely different technique.  

p.s.  Now that people are looking, they have found another product – Privdog, from the SSL certificate company Comodo that has a similar problem.  That means that Comodo should be on your S**t list too.


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