Lenovo's laptops come with Superfish adware installed, and security concerns suggest you should delete it asap. They've also drawn attention to another pest, PrivDog. Here's how to remove Superfish and PrivDog. Also see: Best security software 2015 and Best antivirus and free antivirus 2015.
Lenovo's laptops have hit the headlines, and unfortunately not for good reason. It's been discovered that the Superfish adware pre-installed on many of the company's consumer laptops is dangerous, and can potentially spy on your online banking activity, sensitive emails and more. Here, we talk you through how to remove Superfish and delete it from your laptop for good.
Lenovo began pre-installing Superfish onto its laptops in the middle of 2014. It's bloatware described as a "visual search" tool that acts as a browser add-on to help "users find and discover products visually."
What it actually does, though, is fake encryption certificates for HTTPS-protected sites, conducting a man-in-the-middle style attack that fills websites you visit with its ads. In turn, you're left vulnerable to hackers which is where the real problem lies, so you'll want to remove Superfish as quickly as you can.
But don't worry, it's an easy and reasonably quick process, as we'll explain here.
It's actually been an issue since November 2014, and users have been complaining on Lenovo's product forums, but it's now been addressed in said forums by Lenovo product manager Mark Hopkins, who says: We have temporarily removed Superfish from our consumer systems until such time as Superfish is able to provide a software build that addresses these issues. As for units already in the market, we have requested that Superfish auto-update a fix that addresses these issues." A support post has also been published on Lenovo's forums here.
It's important to note that there is no evidence to suggest that any spying has actually been carried out as yet, so it's unlikely that any of your sensitive information has been recorded by Lenovo or Superfish, or hackers abusing Superfish's encryption method, but it's well-worth removing it now anyway to prevent such attacks in the future.
Since Superfish hit the news, the very similar but arguably more dangerous PrivDog has also come to light. PrivDog is similar to Superfish, installed by AV companies Lavasoft and Comodo. PrivDog allows your browser to accept every HTTPS certificate, without checking its validity. However, only versions 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11 of PrivDog are affected.
Also read: How to avoid the latest Facebook threat
How to tell if your laptop has Superfish installed
Lenovo hasn't revealed exactly which computers the Superfish software is installed on, but it has said that it was included on "some consumer notebook products shipped in a short window between October and December."
You can find out whether your Lenovo laptop has Superfish installed because you'll spot visual price-comparison adverts on your web pages. These are labelled "Visual Search results" and they're "powered by VisualDiscovery."
If you see that, you're affected, but even if you don't you could still find that Superfish is installed.
How to delete Superfish from your laptop
Go to Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a Program and have a look for VisualDiscovery. If you see it, you'll want to uninstall it by simply selecting it and clicking "Uninstall"
When you've found it and uninstalled it from your machine, we'd advise running a virus scan. Some antivirus software will actually flag Superfish as adware or an unwanted program during the scan, so it can help you make sure that it's definitely been removed from your laptop.
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How to remove the Superfish root certificate
Even if you've removed Superfish from your laptop, though, you may not have removed the self-generated root certificate that the adware puts into the Windows certificate store.
You can remove it manually, though, by pressing Windows key + R on your keyboard to bring up the Run tool, then search for certmgr.msc to open your PC's certificate manager.
Once open, click "Trusted root certificate authorities" in the navigation pane on the left and double-click "Certificates" in the central pane. You'll now see a list of trusted root certificates. Locate Superfish, and then right click and press Delete.
So there you have it. Now you'll have deleted the Superfish adware and removed that pesky certificate. We'll update this article with further developments as they arise.
How to remove PrivDog
As we mentioned, only versions 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 of PrivDog are affected. The company is rolling out a patch, or you can download and install the latest version (126.96.36.199) now.