Lenovo caught bloating PCs as profits plunge

August 13, 2015 // 11:20 a.m.

Tags: #insecurity #lenovo #motorola-mobility #privacy #security #superfish #thinkpad #vulnerability

Chinese tech giant Lenovo has been hit by a barrage of bad news, as the company finds itself under attack for more rootkit-like shenanigans and having to shed thousands of jobs as its profits take a tumble.

Lenovo began its rise to the top when it acquired the PC business from IBM, in particular the company's much-loved ThinkPad range of laptops. In 2008, the company made a rare misstep in selling its smartphone and tablet division in order to concentrate on traditional computers; seeing the market slump continue, however, it changed its mind the following year and paid $200 million, double what it had sold the division for, to get it back. Lenovo's commitment to mobile devices was reaffirmed in early 2014, when it acquired the bulk of what was once Motorola Mobility from Google for $2.35 billion.

While market watchers show Lenovo sitting pretty at the top of the traditional PC sales charts, sales of its mobile devices have been slow. Worse, the company was hit by a wave of bad press in January this year when it admitted installing man-in-the-middle adware on its consumer machines, a serious security vulnerability it promised to fix with a call to end the preinstallation of bloatware across the industry, starting with its own machines.

Sadly, Lenovo appears to have been all talk and no trousers. Ars Technica, prompted by an investigation carried out by one of its own forum members, has published details of yet more bloatware on Lenovo systems, this time making use of the anti-theft technology built into Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 to ensure that the software is reinstalled even if the user chooses to perform a clean install of the operating system. Like the Superfish issue before it, the Lenovo Service Engine system also brings with it serious security issues - and, remember, reinstalls itself if even if you perform a clean operating system install.

To be caught out installing sneaky bloatware after the Superfish debacle is bad, but it's not Lenovo's biggest problem at the moment: blaming a 'tough environment,' the company warned that its first-quarter results for the financial year saw pre-tax income plummet 80 per cent year-on-year to just $52 million. As a result, the company has told investors it has a series of 'realignment actions' designed to bring it back into the black, including the reduction of around 3,200 staff - five percent of its overall workforce, and about 10 per cent of its non-manufacturing staff.
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