News / Science & Technology

    Chinese Android Phone Shipped with Spyware

    An analyst from German security firm G DATA holds a Star N9500 smartphone. (G DATA)
    An analyst from German security firm G DATA holds a Star N9500 smartphone. (G DATA)

    Related Articles

    Indonesian Smartphone Usage Surges but Still Lags

    Survey shows one in four people in country own mobile devices

    Amazon Unveils $200 ‘Fire’ Smartphone

    Device can show 3-D images plus recognize music and TV shows; stock price rises on announcement of product release

    Apps Let Parents Control Children's Usage of Electronic Devices

    'DinnerTime Parental Control' app allows parents to pause activity on child's Android smartphone or tablet so that they can focus on things like homework, exercise and family time
    That cheap smartphone you may have purchased may come preloaded with an unwelcome app – one that can turn your phone into a sophisticated spying device.
     
    German researchers say they found that the Star N9500 Android smartphone, which is a knockoff of the popular Samsung Galaxy S4, is infected with spyware capable of retrieving personal data, intercepting calls and text messages, and having its camera and microphone operated remotely. Someone with control of the phone could also install other nefarious applications.
     
    According to German security firm G DATA, which discovered the malware, personal information collected by the phone is then sent back “to a server located in China and is able to covertly install additional applications.”
     
    The infection is so bad that large online retailers like eBay and Amazon removed the phone from their inventories though when VOA last checked, Amazon was still selling another Star model smartphone.
     
    “Due to reports that some Star N9500 smartphones are loaded with spyware, eBay is not allowing the sale of these devices as a precautionary measure,” a spokesman for eBay said in an email.
     
    G DATA first became aware of the spyware after receiving tips from owners.
     
    One of the first red flags was that the manuals included with the phone had no information about how to contact the company, said Thorsten Urbanski, a spokesman for G DATA.
     
    Urbanski added that in China, vendors must have website for customer support.
     
    “They don’t have one,” he said. “It’s very strange.”
     
    A deeper analysis revealed that the phones’ parts included no information about the manufacturer and many of the serial numbers were peculiar, according to Urbanski.
     
    They then analyzed the phone’s firmware and discovered malware called Android.Trojan.Uupay.D, which was disguised as an app in the Google Play store.
     
    According to G DATA, the “spy function is invisible to the user and cannot be deactivated.” Furthermore, the program blocks the installation of security updates.
     
    Urbanski said one of the alarming aspects of the phone is the number sold, which is hard to tell. The price for the phone ranges from $177 to $225, considerably less than one would pay for the Samsung Galaxy S4.
     
    “It seems to be one of the best-selling low-cost smartphones,” he said.

    According to the Pew Research Internet Project, 58 percent of American adults have a smartphone. Android phones attract 98 percent of mobile phone malware, according to Internet security firm Kaspersky.

    While the Star N9500 is currently the focus of attention, Urbanski said G DATA was in the process of analyzing other Star phones as well as other brands to see if they have the same firmware infection. He added that Samsung phones as well as Chinese Huawei phones did not appear to be compromised.

    Cyber security expert Christopher Burgess, CEO of Prevendra, Inc., an Internet security firm, said if the phones are counterfeit copies of the Samsung phone “one should not be surprised that counterfeit hardware comes pre-loaded with ‘value added features’ which enhance the profitability for the counterfeit manufacturer.”

    “It is a bit of karma for those who support the supply chain of counterfeit goods, and drives home the point, if the deal is too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.