Lenovo, the largest PC vendor in the world, found itself melting under a spotlight recently. In September 2014, Lenovo accepted approximately $250,000 to bundle Superfish Inc VisualDiscovery on its computers. The software inserts advertisements into Google search results that will “add to the user experience”.
Unfortunately, Superfish used inadequately protected encryption certificates constructed by Kommodia; this enables cyberattacks to readily intercept passwords and sensitive data. On February 20, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security advised uninstalling Superfish and any of its associated root certificates from about 16 million Lenovo computers built between September 2014 and January 2015. Go to https://filippo.io/Badfish/ to see if you are infected. Search for “remove Superfish” in your browser for useful cleanup software.
Superfish developed advertising-supported software based on its “visual search engine.” Superfish “Window Shopper” software was bundled with assorted applications as early as 2010 and was quickly identified as adware, malware or worse. An estimated 200 million computers have various Superfish adware products preinstalled
Lenovo is now apologizing profusely for negotiating the Superfish deal and has provided a Superfish removal program on the company website. The company is also promising to bring to an end to the practice of pre-loading “PUPs” (Potentially Unwanted Programs) on new systems in hopes that we will soon forgive and forget.
PUP is a politically correct term coined by McAfee when online marketers were offended by the characterization of their products as ” adware”, “bloatware”, “spyware” or ” crapware “. Adware is a big business. For example, IAC, which owns Ask.com among many other web presences, reported $1.6 billion in revenues in 2014 while paying $883 million to partners who distribute its “customized browser-based applications.” The Ask toolbar is just one of hundreds of toolbars!
Hardware makers claim that they install these annoyances because profit margins in the PC business are razor thin. By accepting advance payments in return for preloading “extra value products” they can reduce selling prices. If it weren’t for that package of bloatware, you’d pay more – possibly a lot more – for your PC.
There are numerous ways of avoiding or eradicating crapware on your PC. Mac owners may snicker at this warning, as most Apple products are devoid of this plague (if you download solely from the Apple store). Microsoft Stores offer “Signature Editions” from multiple companies which are blissfully free of bloatware as are all Surface tablets. Custom built premium priced computers or home built systems are similarly clean computers.
Assembly line computers routinely arrive with two to four dozen programs of highly questionable utility; the assortment changes every month or two. Many retailers offer a cleanup service for $50 to $100, but results are variable. Experienced do-it-yourselfers have found that several free programs will automate a large part of the cleanup process. PCDecrapifier is a longtime favorite, while Should I Remove It and Slim Computer are more recent arrivals that additionally provide crowd sourced recommendations. Refreshing or Resetting Windows 8 /8.1 won’t help at all – you’ll get fresh copies of all the original PUPs installed again!