It wasn’t enough that one tech giant was making hot headlines because their products were literally a fire hazard, now computer manufacturer Lenovo is feeling the burn due to a recently disclosed vulnerability that could have a widespread impact on many of their computers. Dubbed “ThinkPwn” by its discoverer as a play on the popular Lenovo ThinkPad model, this particular weakness seems to impact the entire ThinkPad line going back several years as it’s a flaw embedded in the firmware of the chipset used in dozens of computer models, including, unfortunately, HP and motherboards made by component manufacturer Gigabyte, which are extremely popular amongst build-your-own PC enthusiasts. The ThinkPwn weakness appears within low-level code that provides core security infrastructure to the operating system that runs on top of it. If Microsoft Windows was your house, this code is a big crack in your foundation.
What this means for you:
Neither Lenovo or HP have disclosed which models are affected, but it seems widespread enough that Lenovo has issued an “industry-wide” warning. Presumably all affected manufacturers are working on security fixes, but none are available yet, so if you own an HP or Lenovo (or Gigabyte-powered PC), sit tight, make sure your antivirus is up to date, and remain vigilant.
How did this vulnerability come to impact so many computers? The hardware-layer code that powers the machine-OS interface (BIOS on older machines, UEFI on newer computers) is also written and updated by a small number of companies called Independent BIOS Vendors or IBVs, all of whom use a base set of code from chipset manufacturers like Intel and AMD. Like so many other widespread weakness, the proliferation of the flaw comes from everyone in the industry relying on a core set of code. Thank you, Mass Production!