Popular Android phones may be running spyware

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21 December 2016 | 0

When security firm Kryptowire discovered that Chinese firmware company Adups was spying on text messages, call logs, contact lists, and location information sent by Blu R1 HD phones in the United States, Blu quickly acted to plug the security hole and assure customers that personal data was safe. But now it appears that the issue might be more widespread.

Security research outfit Trustlook has uncovered numerous other manufacturers that may have devices containing Adups apps. While many of them are smaller China-based manufacturers, a few notable brands made the list, including Archos, ZTE and Lenovo. Trustlook’s findings echo those of Kryptowire, in that the preinstalled apps are working behind the scenes to mine your data:

“The app comes preinstalled on the device. It collects many types of user information. In addition to specifications such as IMEI, IMSI, MAC address, version number, and operator, this app attempts to collect user’s SMS text messages and call logs. More troubling is that all of these procedures are done without user’s consent and are processed in the background.”

In all, Trustlook has identified 43 manufacturers using Adups to deliver firmware. While the report does not say which phones are using the apps — or even what, if anything, is being transmitted back to Adups — it is likely that any affected manufacturers will follow’s Blu’s lead and quickly patch the issue. Previously, ZTE told Greenbot that “no ZTE devices in the US have ever had the Adups software cited in recent news reports installed on them.”

In the original New York Times report, Adups said the software was strictly used “to identify junk text messages and calls,” and admitted installing the app on US phones was “a mistake.”

The impact for users is that because of its open nature, Android is always at risk of spyware and malware infiltrating its phones, and these stories are going to surface from time to time. Blu handled it the right way, with a clear course of action and a transparent explanation of what it did to correct the issue. If you own a phone by one of the manufacturers listed in the report, there is not a whole lot you can do to remove the spyware (though Trustlook offers its own tool to detect if it is present), but it serves as a reminder to be mindful of where you purchase your phone.

 

IDG News Service

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