Lenovo will have to pay $3.5 million in damages to more than 30 states after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) discovered that a huge number of laptops that are sold between 2014 and 2015 may possess spyware. The “infected” laptops were spread across 32 states which, led by Connecticut, filed a case with the FTC.
The FTC said in its report that a software called VisualDiscovery came pre-installed to about 750,000 laptops. The program, made by a firm called SuperFish, can apparently retrieve data on consumer behavior in the form of statistics and potentially-sensitive data.
FTC chairman Maureen Ohlhausen told Inverse that the software made by the California-based company can steal extremely sensitive data. It is the “online equivalent of someone, without your knowledge, intercepting your mail, opening it, reading it, re-sealing it, and putting it back in your mailbox.”
Naked Security also explained that VisualDiscovery can use images aside from keywords to take note of what you search online. This means SuperFish may have the ability to check a customer’s private information. These can include bank account information and login credentials.
Meanwhile, uninstall instructions can now be found in the Superwish website to remove the VisualDiscovery software.
Efforts made by the FTC to settle the Lenovo dispute shows the agency’s determination to pursue companies that invade customer privacy. This is in fact the third account of privacy violation cases that the FTC declared in the past month.
The first of the cases were about the ride sharing application Uber. This was followed by TaxSlayer, a firm that focuses on taxes. The cases so far have common themes: they involve personal details, such as driver’s license numbers, Social Security details, and consumer information.