So unsurprisingly a security researcher found some cheap Android devices phoning home to China when buying a phone to travel with.
One of the phones seems to be Blu R1 HD, which is ‘Currently unavailable’ on Amazon.com and customers that bought it have received security update e-mails.
Security researchers have uncovered a secret backdoor in Android phones that sends almost all personally identifiable information to servers based in China.
The firmware is managed by Shanghai Adups Technology, and according to the company, is contained on over 700 million phones worldwide, including phones available in the United States.
Adups says that the firmware provides companies with data for customer support, but an analysis by Kryptowire revealed that the software sends the full bodies of text messages, contact lists, call history with full telephone numbers, and unique device identifiers including the International Mobile Subscriber Identity and the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity.
Or, in other words, everything that you would need to keep someone under surveillance.
Although Shanghai Adups is not affiliated with the Chinese government, the discovery of the firmware is being taken very seriously by US government officials: not least because the firmware does not disclose what it is doing and the firmware – spyware – comes pre-installed on new phones.
It looks like the CIA/FBI/Homeland will be looking into this as it could potentially be framed as a Nation state attack (even though it’s most likely not) – it’s just some unethical businessman. Also the fact that Kryptowire was established by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and Homeland – so yeah.
You can read the original post here: KRYPTOWIRE DISCOVERS MOBILE PHONE FIRMWARE THAT TRANSMITTED PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION (PII) WITHOUT USER CONSENT OR DISCLOSURE
On its website, Adups says its firmware is used by 400 mobile operators, semiconductor vendors, and device manufacturers, covering everything from smartphones to wearables to cars and televisions.
The company has admitted that the specific software under examination was written following a request by a Chinese manufacturer, but has refused to name the company.
Phones with the firmware are available for purchase online in the US, including through major retailers like Amazon and BestBuy. Kryptowire said it only discovered its existence by accident when one of its researchers bought a phone to travel with and noticed some irregular network traffic when he turned it on.
Adups has not published a list of the phones its software is included in, although it is known to provide its software to the two large Chinese phone manufacturers Huawei and ZTE. Google has apparently told the company to also remove its software from any Android phones that run its app store, Google Play.
As mentioned in the first sentence, this is not surprising, it’s happened before and it will happen again. China is not best known for it’s ethical business practises or its respect for user privacy and sensitive data handling.
So be careful what you buy, and perhaps spend a few bucks more for something you can trust.
Source: The Register