Vietnam scrambles to respond to Lenovo spyware warnings

Thanh Nien News

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A file photo of Lenovo logo displayed in China. Photo: Bloomberg A file photo of Lenovo logo displayed in China. Photo: Bloomberg


Authorities in the northern province of Quang Ninh and Hai Phong City are checking Lenovo computers in their offices for fear that they may be infected with the Chinese manufacturer's spyware, local media reported Tuesday..
A Tuoi Tre report said, as a precautionary measure, local agencies have been ordered to gradually replacing desktops and desktops made by Lenovo. 
The move came after the Ministry of Public Security warned that many Lenovo computers were pre-installed with software which could pose threats to the devices' information security, said Dang Huy Hau, vice chairman of Quang Ninh Province.
The software in question was Lenovo Service Engine (LSE), whose dubious validity has been questioned by international media, prompting the manufacturer to release tools allowing users to uninstall it in late July.
However, for unclear reasons, Vietnam, where Lenovo is the fourth biggest laptop seller after Dell, HP and Asus, did not catch wind of the problem until last month.
Regardless of the late action, Hau told Tuoi Tre that the questionable software was yet to cause considerable damage, since no confidential and important files were stored on Lenovo computers. 
Speaking to Thanh Nien, Ngo Tran Vu, director of Ho Chi Minh City-based NTS Security Company, said although LSE could be meant to keep Lenovo informed of users' habits as claimed by the manufacturers, it could be easily used by hackers to steal information or infect them with virus.
LSE has similar properties of spyware -- it is integrated into a computer's firmware without users' awareness and without being detected by anti-virus software, Vu said. It can automatically re-install and update all default programs of Lenovo, when a computer starts up, even after they are removed.
The software can only be removed with a firmware update released by the manufacturer, Vu said.

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