This is a lesson about greed, bad communications and stupidity. Somewhere deep inside the executive offices of computer giant Lenovo, somebody had an ingenious plan: Let’s extract more money from our customers.

To refresh your memory, Lenovo has long been a manufacturer of desktop computers, laptops and other electronics. The company first came to the spotlight when it purchased the laptop (remember ThinkPads? Yes they are still around) division from IBM, phones from Motorola/Google and the latest, the Intel-based server business from IBM. One of the reasons, IBM had sold the laptop business to Lenovo, was that it had rapidly become a commodity business with shrinking margins. Lenovo is a company that relies on doing large volumes of sales and can still make money in that market space.

So, let’s go back to this ingenious plan from Lenovo. I am sure that you are aware that while you are browsing the Internet there are numerous ads you will be exposed to. Sometimes you notice them but most of the time, you do not. These ads are served to your screen by internet behemoths like Google. The braintrust at Lenovo came up with a brilliant idea. They said, “Why don’t we intercept the ads which others are serving and insert our own. We can make lot’s of money !”. Interesting idea. The parallel would be a local TV station inserting its own commercials to a national broadcast of major network without any formal agreement or discussion. This of course would be illegal, but the Internet doesn’t care about such technicalities.

How exactly did Lenovo do this? They used an application from Superfish, a software company that intercepts all the traffic between your browser and the website you were visiting. What’s wrong with this picture? First – it was preinstalled on your computer and like millions of other Lenovo customers, told absolutely nothing about it. Second – you bought your computer to use it, not to become a proxy money-making machine for Lenovo. Third – the most serious issue being security. In order to intercept secure traffic (say, between you and your bank), Superfish created a fake security certificate on the fly to prevent your browser from raising any security alert. Your computer is a prime target for hackers and thanks to Lenovo, Superfish would have access to all the information hackers need.

Now this information about Lenovo’s practices has become public and the backlash has begun, Lenovo has started PR damage control campaign and has, so they say, remotely disabled the offending software.

Lenovo, you supposed to provide quality, trusted equipment to your customers. They pay you for that. You failed them on both counts.

Trending this week …

This week brought us some interesting, note-worthy articles and news:

  • Every (smart) phone on the market is using a SIM card to activate the phone and encrypt the data communication between the phone and cell tower. ‘Somebody’ apparently obtained a database of these codes to better monitor your sexting habits –>
  • Scientist discovered method how to store data for millions of years. Facebook got excited –>
  • Yandex, the Russian search engine, is complaining to the Russian government about unfair advantage which Google has by installing its search engine on all the Android phones. It brings back the good old memories when Microsoft was doing the same with Internet Explorer. The reason why people prefer Google search, because it can still find Crimea –>
  • Kaspersky Lab – the computer security company – discovered suite of highly sophisticated malware. Some of the pieces were in place for almost 15 years. It is a must read if you want to understand computer security and high end hacking –>
  • If you live in US and if you are using TurboTax, beware of fraudsters. They can file bogus tax return on your behalf, redirect the refund to their address and disappear, leaving you with IRS mess –>
  • Meet Julie – your new virtual assistant. She can setup appointments based on your email exchange with other people. Since the technology is in its infancy, there is an army of people checking every appointment for accuracy –>
  • Our regular readers know about our fondness for IBM Watson. There is a new startup bringing Watson functionality to a toy. Its promotional video shows happy, laughing kids, holding ugly piece of plastic in the shape of a dinosaur. The founders, by their own admission, don’t have kids, but they know that conversation with Watson, shaped as a dinosaur, is something the kids are missing –>
  • Another toy connected to the Internet is Barbie. That’s one small step for Barbie, one giant setback for mankind –>
  • Check out even more trending topics here –>