Lenovo hit by lawsuit over Superfish adware

Consumers and attorneys are already looking to the legal system for recourse following revelations that Lenovo installed potentially dangerous software on its PCs.

Lenovo is facing legal repercussions over the Superfish software. Sarah Tew/CNET

Lenovo may find itself in a courtroom over its Superfish adware fiasco.

One lawsuit filed in federal court last week charges both Lenovo and Superfish with violating wiretap laws and trespassing on personal property, Ars Technica reported Monday. In another case, a legal firm has launched a class action investigation over potential claims against Lenovo's actions.

The Chinese PC maker has found itself in hot water following last week's revelations that many of its PCs include a software program called Superfish Visual Discovery. Considered either adware or spyware, Superfish tracks your Web searches and browsing activity to place additional ads on the sites you visit. But the software also installs its own root certificate that leaves affected PCs more vulnerable to malware attacks.

Lenovo has apologized for the problem and has begun work to resolve it. "We messed up badly," said Peter Hortensius, Lenovo's chief technology officer, said last week.

The world's biggest computer maker, Lenovo has managed to earn a hefty profit and significant presence in the sluggish PC market. The company's laptop lineup has garnered generally good reviews. But the fact that Lenovo installed such software on its PCs could do a fair amount of damage to both its reputation and sales. Legal defense could also cost the company.

The individual suit filed February 19 in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California by blogger Jessica Bennett charges that the Superfish software tracked her Internet use, invaded her privacy and damaged her computer. Specifically, Bennett said that she was writing a blog post on her PC when she noticed ads involving "scantily clad women" on her client's website. Later, Bennett said, she was working on a different client site when she saw the same set of ads, making her realize that it was her own computer that was infected by some type of spyware.

Her lawsuit, which seeks a class action status and jury trial, charges Lenovo with the following:

Defendants' Spyware and popup advertisements decrease productivity by requiring that hours be spent figuring out how to get them off of a computer, closing advertising windows, and waiting for a slower machine to operate. Furthermore, computer users are forced to keep their computers running longer (due to the slowed performance) which utilizes more electricity, decreases the useful life of a computer, and causes increased Internet access charges. The cumulative impact of not only multiple ads, but also the threat of future ads and monitoring, impedes computer usage.

Meanwhile, the class action investigation launched by the New York-based Rosen Law Firm is looking for consumers who purchased the affected Lenovo PCs and want to participate in a class action lawsuit. The firm charges that the Superfish adware "exposes the computer user to serious security vulnerabilities that could result in the theft of users' login and passwords, and other sensitive data that a user transmits online, as well as a degraded internet experience caused by it downloading and injecting third party ads and pop-up windows."

Lenovo PC owners can determine if the Superfish software is installed on their machines and then remove it by following the steps in this CNET article. Lenovo has also published its own instructions on finding and removing the software.

A Lenovo spokesperson told CNET on Tuesday that the company does not comment on litigation.

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