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

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora