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Lenovo Collects Usage Data On ThinkPad, ThinkCentre and ThinkStation PCs 134

New submitter LichtSpektren writes: Following up Lenovo's blunders regarding the Superfish malware and altered BIOS, Michael Horowitz at ComputerWorld reports that a refurbished ThinkPad he bought includes Lenovo spyware under the guise of "Customer Feedback". After some digging around, he found the following in a support document: "Lenovo says here that all ThinkPad, ThinkCentre and ThinkStation PCs, running Windows 7 and 8.1, may upload 'non-personal and non-identifying information about Lenovo software application usage' to 112.2o7.net."
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Lenovo Collects Usage Data On ThinkPad, ThinkCentre and ThinkStation PCs

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  • Windows? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @02:59PM (#50577259)

    Didn't we all agree the other day that ThinkPads are for running Linux?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Didn't we all agree the other day that ThinkPads are for running Linux?

      We sure did. I can attest: T-series Thinkpads are *excellent* for that. As far as Windows goes, we've already been hearing about the phoning home it's doing in Windows 10 and the hotfixes for versions 7 and 8. The best thing you can do with a Windows PC: install Linux and run that instead.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Didn't we all agree the other day that ThinkPads are for running Linux?

        We sure did. I can attest: T-series Thinkpads are *excellent* for that. As far as Windows goes, we've already been hearing about the phoning home it's doing in Windows 10 and the hotfixes for versions 7 and 8. The best thing you can do with a Windows PC: install Linux and run that instead.

        Spot on. Some variants even come with a customized version of Ubuntu pre-installed, which uses some binary blob drivers that are actually inferior to the Linux native ones. Then you wipe and install your $favorate_distro knowing that the hardware will be well supported. I don't know whether they still sell the models any more. Back then I chose them for excellent Linux compatibility and no MS-tax.

        Also their form design is fairly friendly to lightweight DIY repair. It's easy to tear down and put back.

    • Sod Linux I have Android running on mine :)
  • don't buy lenovo... we get it.

  • by acoustix ( 123925 ) on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @03:01PM (#50577273) Homepage

    I realize that most business models are usually wiped/imaged anyway, but this is more disgusting behavior by Lenovo. Stuff like this will keep me from buying and recommending their products.

    • Lenovo didn't do that already with their adware?

      • They insisted that Thinkpads were unaffected, and if you were recommending any of their products other than Thinkpads then you weren't thinking straight anyway.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      according to whois, that ip belongs to Adobe.?!

    • It would appear their Thinkpad aren't affected (not sure if I read that correctly). If true that provides some relief since I've been buying nothing but Lenovo laptops as I found their build quality to be superior. On a side note, we RE-IMAGE all laptops with our standard corporate setup so this is more or less an issue.

      My question to companies that do this is: WHY? Is there not enough money in the sales of the hardware?

      • WHY? Is there not enough money in the sales of the hardware?

        PC hardware is fairly low-margin and has been for a long time. Manufacturers look for anything they can find to bump their profits up. Often that includes a bunch of "trialware", "partner offers", and other crap preloaded on the machine. There's been a certain amount of backlash from customers about easily-visible adware like that, so it makes some sense that Lenovo would try to get the same benefits by hiding it on the computer instead.

      • It would appear their Thinkpad aren't affected

        Just checked my Thinkpad, it's infected. OTOH now I know about it, removal instructions are pretty straightforward, run taskschd.msc, open the Lenovo | LSC entry, delete the three "Lenovo Customer Feedback" entries.

        • Good to know. I checked and ours don't have them because of the corporate image we slap on it.

          • I was surprised to find it on mine, it's a business laptop which, so far, hadn't been infected by any of their other stuff. I guessed they didn't want to annoy their business customers, and since they're being paid a premium for the device they don't need to subsidise the cost with bloatware.
    • I realize that most business models are usually wiped/imaged anyway

      how many times do I have to post this link:

      https://thehackernews.com/2015/08/lenovo-rootkit-malware.html

      "Lenovo Caught Using Rootkit to Secretly Install Unremovable Software"

    • I realize that most business models are usually wiped/imaged anyway, but this is more disgusting behavior by Lenovo. Stuff like this will keep me from buying and recommending their products.

      I know it's cool to get outraged, and I'm certainly not comfortable with spying in general, but I actually read the article and it's kind of weird.

      It's repeatedly iterated that the feedback tool gathers information on Lenovo's own software only. Lenovo business machines don't ship with much. There's a more flexible power-manager, a tool that checks if your hardware is falling part (does memory tests, hard drive SMART tests etc periodically), and a tool that makes it easy to download updated drivers and

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Lenovo isn't the only one doing this, it's standard industry practice. Back in the bad old days software would crash a lot, and a lot of it was never used anyway, and developers were largely clueless about how it. Hence the rise of "value added" bloatware, offering features that no-one wants. By sending back a bit of telemetry the manufacturers soon realized that people uninstall or disable most of it, so started to cut down. Lenovo is actually one of the best in this regard - their business machines are re

        • While I personally would disable this stuff, it is unfortunately the price we pay for modern tech.

          That's the point... it shouldn't be the price we pay for modern tech. It's truly sad that I have to treat every piece of software or hardware as the enemy these days, and have to set up my firewall to prevent all outgoing traffic that I don't explicitly authorize.

      • Sure, it's valuable to Lenovo to know how many people disable the scheduled hardware tests, or opt to remove the bundled AV software immediately upon install. It's valuable to them to know how often people use their System Update to keep up-to-date, and how often all of this stuff simply doesn't work. Even knowing the average user's preference in power management settings is useful.

        There's no question this data is of value to them. It's also none of their goddamned business.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's fantastic news. Next up: all EULAs say the software enclosed within is not fit for any purpose and may send your data up to Mars - news for nerds.
    You truly care about security but absolutely need Windows on the host? Wipe the preinstalled software, install a fresh copy, put a firewall+AV on it, don't allow unknown traffic to go out, and that's it.

    • That's fantastic news. Next up: all EULAs say the software enclosed within is not fit for any purpose and may send your data up to Mars - news for nerds.

      Slashdot, Sept 22, 2020

      New startup Yoyodyne Industries releases rock-solid server OS with liberal EULA, quickly rises to 94% market share.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Where is all the open-source "libre" hardware that we were promised 2-to-3 years ago?

    Everything is so locked down, controlled, monitored, and back-doored these days (thanks, smartphones!). Almost every new computer has Intel's AMT integrated into it—a complete computing system within a computing system; it has its own operating system and its own non-volatile ("hard disk") storage, and it's own RAM, and it can access the rest of "your" system even when it is supposedly turned off (though still connect

    • Where is all the open-source "libre" hardware that we were promised 2-to-3 years ago?

      Software programmers usually don't require very much beyond decent computers and sufficient time. Hardware designers ultimately require silicon fabs - it's expensive to even get production time in one, never mind to own one. And if you end up with a serious bug that didn't show up until the first chips came off the line, then it's big bucks all over again to fix it.

      I have the utmost respect and admiration for those who donate their time and effort to create libre software, and I would never expect them to m

      • Software programmers usually don't require very much beyond decent computers and sufficient time.

        Knowledge and experience with hardware stuff like NUMA, RDMA, etc. are necessary for server software developers today.

        There is no real competition anywhere anymore, at least among large corporations.

        I'm looking at the newegg.com website right now

        in mini-pc systems there are 9 different vendors
        in laptops systems there are 36 different vendors
        for chromebooks there are 8 different vendors
        for desktops there are 40 different vendors

        this is just the newegg web site

        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          Where do those "vendors" get their merchandise. (Not that you're necessarily wrong, but your figures are just the first step in the argument. And aren't an argument that addresses the point of the g.p.)

    • What happened to the ARM-based netbooks? What happened to the OpenMokos? What happened to the novenas and the open systems-on-a-chip? All we have is the incomplete Neo900 fanboy club, and FSF's lauded Gluglug x200 junk.

      Intel knows all about their competitors. They aggressively lowered prices and cut deals and elbowed their way in. Lots and lots of Windows apps will never ever run on anything but x86. There is just no way that ARM can match the value for the money, even if they gave away the chips for free.

  • Unfortunately I really like the Moto X, but after Lenovo's privacy issues and cavalier attitude, I'm not going to be considering any Motorola products, either. We need to punish companies that treat us like this.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    What IT professional is still willing to purchase any Lenovo product, be it for personal or enterprise use?

    • My employers. The hardware's decent, and they reimage every machine before it's delivered to the office. It's not like one corporation's going to care what another corporation does if it doesn't cause a practical problem (read as: cost them money). An amoral entity can't take a moral stand.
      • An amoral entity can't take a moral stand.

        So if a corporation doesn't want its internal data transmitted to Lenovo, that's a moral choice? Sounds like a business choice to me.

        • I feel like I already covered the "business choice" aspect. Leaked internal data is likely to be considered a practical problem, since it's likely to eventually cost the company money, in one way or another.
          • I feel like I already covered the "business choice" aspect.

            You keep buying computers from a company that uses every trick in the book to slurp your data out of your computer. For the time being you've been able to keep ahead of their behavior. But how long will it last? Is it a "moral" choice to decide that it's not worth the risk anymore?

            What will you say WHEN (not if) you get an email from a security researcher who just found your company's internal data on a chinese server?

            • I don't know; what will you say WHEN the same happens to you? My employer cares about their data; it keeps them in business. If I'm working for a company that proves incapable of staying in business, I'll find a new employer. If my own information is leaked in a way likely to cause me some form of harm, I'd seek legal counsel to explore my options in that direction.

              "Shit happens". If I worry about everything that every company in the world does wrong, I'll quickly find myself completely unable to function
      • My employers. The hardware's decent, and they reimage every machine before it's delivered to the office.

        he he he, they think they are so smart:

        https://thehackernews.com/2015/08/lenovo-rootkit-malware.html

        "Lenovo Caught Using Rootkit to Secretly Install Unremovable Software"

        • LSE's only present in certain models of computer [lenovo.com]. None of the models in our ordering list are in Lenovo's list.
          • so you actually trust what lenovo tells you, after all this?

            • Personally? No. We'll see if my employer does next time they select new hardware. On the other hand, LSE's actions are detectable, and its presence can be detected through its actions on the Windows filesystem. I'd argue that no one needs to "trust" Lenovo at all; absence of the rooted firmware should be possible to verify (for instance, by mounting the drive in another vendor's hardware and doing a Windows system file check).
              • Personally? No.

                if you bring your laptop home with you, pull out the battery and put it in a faraday cage before you bring it into your house.

              • On the other hand, LSE's actions are detectable

                They've probably already moved on to another technology to slurp your data. it won't be reverse engineered for a while. Your boss can continue to keep his head in the sand at least for the time being.

                by the way, you know that your boss has a whole lot of YOUR personal information in his servers?

                • Absolutely (well, in the literal sense, my boss doesn't, but the company certainly does). The company MitMs all SSL connections (certs are installed into all browsers that mark the company's CA as trusted). They could easily grab my login info for any site I connect to using a computer connected to the company network. That's not even getting into the tax + pay information, my address, phone number, and social security that the company has access to. What's your point? The situation will be similar nearly a
                  • The situation will be similar nearly anywhere.

                    Not for companies that don't use Windows for critical IT services

                    • You mean except for all that Linux-based technology to slurp your data that Lenovo installed that no one has discovered yet, right? ;-) Linux is a great tool, but it's neither infallible nor impregnable. The same applies to any other OS that you could conceivably be talking about.
                    • You'll get no argument from me on that point, since it's statistically true. FranTaylor, in a different part of this thread, said something about a Lenovo data breach being a "WHEN (not if)" situation. I'm just pointing out that they can't have it both ways. That is, Linux can't be the malware panacea at the same time that a malware data breach is a foregone conclusion.

                      If we're talking about a BIOS-level rootkit though, a secure OS will only be of limited help, and if it were Lenovo's goal to deploy data-g
      • An amoral entity can't take a moral stand.

        Apparently not anymore, anyway. Here is a document from ancient history:

        http://www.hpalumni.org/hp_way.htm

        "HP and the HP way"

        We have trust and respect for individuals.
        We focus on a high level of achievement and contribution.
        We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity.
        We achieve our common objectives through teamwork.
        We encourage flexibility and innovation.

        You will recall that HP became an industry leader with these MORAL stances.

        • That's called "marketing". It's bullshit. A publicly-owned company will say anything if it's not illegal to say and they think it will help move more product. That's all the weight that I'd put behind their statements. Even if individuals in leadership of the company make a morally-backed statement on its behalf, it'll renege on it as soon as there seems to be more profit in doing that than in aligning their behavior to the message.
          • Re:Who's left? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by FranTaylor ( 164577 ) on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @06:24PM (#50578967)

            "Somehow, we got into a discussion of the responsibility of management. Holden made the point that management's responsibility is to the shareholders – that's the end of it. And I objected. I said, 'I think you're absolutely wrong. Management has a responsibility to its employees, it has a responsibility to its customers, it has a responsibility to the community at large.' And they almost laughed me out of the room."

            - David Packard

  • These companies already know that a computer savvy user won't touch their junk with a 10 ft. pole, while the average Joe doesn't seem to care.
    You could say the average user today is akin to the Indians, will trade away things they don't fully understand like privacy and personal info for a few virtual beads and trinkets.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @03:22PM (#50577389)
    Do these guys not know about information theory or do they simply not care? Give a good demographer a few tiny tidbits (IP Address is often enough) and they have all the personally identifiable information they need. Maybe not enough to convict someone but well enough to be very very sure as to who it is.

    People keep talking about utilities such as ad block and VPNs as being about cleaning up the browser and running torrents but these tools are also about cutting off the marketing and demographics folks from our private lives.

    So when the MBAs at Lenovo think that we won't mind, they are wrong, not only wrong that I won't buy their products but that as a computer person I will strongly recommend that no company I work for get them or any person that I know.

    So they pull this stunt, for what, a few extra dollars for some marketing sleazebags? This won't stop everyone from buying their computers but by this point I doubt that few /. users will be buying their products. Even this tiny fraction of their customer base must be worth more than whatever tiny gains they made.

    This is a classic example of spreadsheet thinking combined with a stovepiped company structure. The people who implemented this probably made their tiny corner of Lenovo look good on a spreadsheet while not really caring about the big picture because that wasn't their job in their little stovepipe. Even now as the company takes a hit they are probably fighting any attempts to cut them off from this information and potentially this tiny revenue stream.
    • This. Anytime someone is claiming that information collection is OK because it's "not PII" and/or it's "anonymized", they are either lying or deeply misunderstanding the problem.

      • It is probably a mixture of both, plus some. The guy asking for the data believes this, the guy collecting the data doesn't, and the guy approving it is smart enough to think it through if he could be bothered.
  • Their PC line also tends to have Pokki Installed, which screws with windows 10 installs and loves to drop adware every time it updates.

    • Dear sweet merciful crap. Someone bought an acer for work that had "Pokki" on it, everyone else thought it looked like a perfectly legit bit of software to have on a new computer...

  • by CBob ( 722532 )

    They've been doing this for years. At some point after IBM sold off the brand, some DoD folks (and others) reported the PC's were now calling home to the other side of the Pacific.

  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @03:34PM (#50577507)

    While I don't have a Lenovo, this sort of thing is why I have set a firewall on my MacBook to block all outgoing requests unless they are whitelisted by me. It was a real eye opener when I first saw the number of applications that were phoning home without me knowing.

    • That should work well enough to block third-party apps from phoning home. If the manufacturer wants the device to phone home, a firewall on the device probably won't be effective. To be effective, you need the firewall to run on a separate device (ideally manufactured by someone other than the manufacturers of your computer and OS).
    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      I do this in Windows with Norton, Outpost Firewall 2009, etc., but now I use Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux. What are the good easy firewalls to use for them? Basically, their alerts should appear when connections are made to ask me what to do.

      • When I had a Mac, I used Little Snitch, which does exactly what you're describing. https://www.obdev.at/products/... [obdev.at]
      • by chihowa ( 366380 )

        As mentioned, Little Snitch works well on a Mac. The last time I used iOS, I used Firewall iP [saurik.com]. It required a jailbroken phone and I don't know if it's still maintained.

        I've never found an interactive egress firewall for Linux or Android, which always surprised me.

        • by antdude ( 79039 )

          Thanks. Darn for iOS software (old and requires jailbreaking) and not free for Little Snitch.

    • Be careful about trusting firewall software that runs on the machine you use for other purposes. Operating systems and specially designed applications can and do route around those firewalls.

      What you need is a standalone firewall that protects your entire LAN. Preferably not one of the premanufactured "appliance" firewalls. With an obsolete computer and a moderate amount of knowledge, you can put together your own standalone firewall that is much more trustworthy.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    fresh copies of Windows 7 Professional

    Fresh copies of the lenovo preload... And refurb may mean they were sloppy about OOBE and not presented the client with the ULAs

    Either way, this is not particularly unique to Lenovo. MS also has an identical 'customer feedback' telemetry (also not good). While it's good to complain, there's an added suggestion that Lenovo is uniquely being bad and coming up with conspiracy stories about how it's Chinese spying or some such complaint.

    I want to see *all* the vendors put under this scrutiny (Dell, HP, Apple

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @03:40PM (#50577555) Homepage

    Lenovo Collects Usage Data On ThinkPad, ThinkCentre and ThinkStation PCs

    See, this kind of crap is why I always wipe new laptops and install a fresh copy of Windows 10.

    What?

  • I think I'm glad I didn't buy a Chinese version of an IBM idea. I have a Toshiba, ha ha ha, what irony.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    2o7.net is Omniture/Adobe

    http://www.adobe.com/investor-relations/omniture-acquisition.html

  • People seem to have zero memory from one moment to the next. Despite the awful things that Lenovo does (like digital locks on there wifi cards so they can make a profit off repairs/parts at a later date) and spyware riddled PCs- even going to the extent installing a rootkit via the BIOS people continue reccomending/buying them. It's not just non-technical users either.

    And HP, Sony, Apple, Toshiba, and Dell are also guilty of many of these malicious deeds as well. Even companies like System76 aren't innocent

  • You all probably carry a cell phone which tracks everything you do, where you are what you click and what apps you run. Additionally those apps from various vendors do everything they can to obtain more information about you and your habits. Users of Windows software for years have had "send anonymous data to Microsoft to improve our products." While the intent may be noble, it's veiled at creating information about you, marketable information that they can sell or use for competitive advantage. There's

    • You all probably carry a cell phone which tracks everything you do, where you are what you click and what apps you run.

      Many of us are running cyanogen or similar where the user has control over all that stuff.

      Users of Windows software for years have had "send anonymous data to Microsoft to improve our products."

      If you have a snapshot VM Windows image saved, you can roll back after every use and the OS doesn't remember what it did.

      marketable information that they can sell or use for competitive advantage.

      Humans are inevitably surprised when they discover that humans behave like humans.

    • You all probably carry a cell phone which tracks everything you do, where you are what you click and what apps you run

      Mine doesn't. Or, at least, it doesn't let anything phone home with that information.

  • Abandon all hope. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by devslash0 ( 4203435 ) on Tuesday September 22, 2015 @06:01PM (#50578767)
    The worst part is that they like to switch back to their 'preferred settings' once in a while, ex. during updates, without you knowing. You may think that once you follow that clever removal guide you are done. You are not. It requires constant vigilance. The first law of IT Security: "If someone can run his program on your computer, it's not your computer anymore." Will we live to see the day when we are back in control of our data and devices?
  • What this customer feedback tool actually does is update entries from the "event log" called "Lenovo-Customer Feedback".
    If you open the Event Viewer you will see entries with a large hexadecimal string. This string is simply the text representation of the bytes of a gzip compressed xml file.

    The contents of this XML file looks like this:
    <root>
    <events>event1</events>
    <eVar20>Open</eVar20>
    <visitorID>aca1232d265941f7ae2259e402ab350c

1: No code table for op: ++post

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