Lenovo Website Hacked Less Than a Week After Adware Blunder

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Lenovo PC
Last week Lenovo apologized to customers and pushed out fixes to remove software, made by a company called Superfish, that Lenovo pre-installed on many consumer PCs. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Lenovo Group Ltd.’s website was hijacked and users were redirected, less than a week after the company was criticized for pre-installing advertising software on consumer laptops that exposed users to hacking.

The company said it had restored some functionality to the site after customers reported a breach in which they saw videos of young people looking into Web cameras, with the song “Breaking Free” from the movie “High School Musical” playing in the background. Some employee e-mails were also leaked by a hacking group called the Lizard Squad, according to postings on Twitter. The group has previously targeted Sony Corp.’s online PlayStation video-game network.

The hackers apparently took over Lenovo’s site by altering the records with the domain-name registrar used by the company, according to Matthew Prince, co-founder and chief executive officer of CloudFlare Inc., a San Francisco security company. Last week, Lenovo apologized to customers and pushed out fixes to remove software made by a company called Superfish that Lenovo pre-installed on many consumer devices.

“This may be another small hit to brand image” for Lenovo, said Dan Baker, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. in Hong Kong. “It looks like the hackers were unhappy with the Superfish episode and did this as payback.”

The attackers had used a free CloudFlare account to disguise their origins, Prince said, and then redirected traffic from lenovo.com to CloudFlare’s network. CloudFlare disabled the account used by the attackers, Prince said.

“One effect of this attack was to redirect traffic from the Lenovo website,” Lenovo said in an e-mailed statement. “We are also actively investigating other aspects. We are responding and have already restored certain functionality to our public-facing website.”

Network Security

The Beijing-based company said it was reviewing network security and will take appropriate steps to bolster the site and protect user data.

Shares of Lenovo rose 0.3 percent to close at HK$11.90 in Hong Kong trading.

The world’s largest PC maker faced a deluge of criticism from cyber-security specialists regarding Superfish’s ability to monitor Web behavior and suggest advertisements based on images that a user might be viewing. The technology essentially broke the encryption between Web browsers and banking, e-commerce and other sites that handle sensitive information, potentially exposing machines to hacking.

Circuitous Attack

The hack of lenovo.com was corrected in about an hour, said Andrew Hay, director of security research at OpenDNS, a San Francisco-based security company. Based on publicly accessible information, the attack involved altering the records of Lenovo’s domain-name registrar, which is Web Commerce Communications Ltd., located in Kuala Lumpur. Web Commerce Communications didn’t immediately respond to messages.

“The major walking-away point is all those domains you registered years ago, it’s time to go back and look at the settings,” Hay said.

An attack against a company’s domain-name registrar isn’t an attack directly against the company itself. It’s a circuitous way to hijack a company’s website traffic by telling Internet servers to go to a different address than the company’s homepage. Domain-name registrars manage that routing information for companies, and they have been hacked in the past by attackers stealing employees’ passwords and accessing administrative accounts.

Twitter Inc. was able to deflect a similar attack in 2013 that sidelined visitors to the New York Times and Google Inc. by using a simple tool called a registry lock that prevents hackers from making such changes. The cost for the registry lock is as little as $50 a year.

— With assistance by Jordan Robertson, and Edmond Lococo

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