For a reasonably low price of only US$50, you can now purchase an android smartphone capable of providing you with the latest technological features available on the market. You get HD (High Definition) Display, a basic data package, 4G/LTE data services, a substantial amount of memory and storage capacity, plus all the free built-in apps that come pre-installed upon purchase. And perhaps one of the most outstanding and rather alarming features of your new phone is that all your data, including messages, phone call logs, and location info, get consolidated and sent back to China. Pretty neat, right? Well, no.
Cybersecurity researchers and 3rd party security service providers have recently discovered pre-built Chinese apps/software embedded in several Android mobile devices. These so-called apps can monitor a user’s location in real-time, collect text messages, and phone records. Cybersecurity authorities are trying to ascertain if the collected data is being used for advertising or similar purposes. But as it turns out, all that data is sent straight back to China, possibly collecting intelligence. What’s even more alarming is that these “backdoor” apps were found not just on one Chinese manufactured brand but also on almost all other Chinese brands. This amounts to a staggering 700 Million+ users of Android devices globally. This includes prepaid and disposable users of smart mobile devices everywhere in the world.
Shanghai Adups Tech Company, which owns and developed the codes, says the number of Android users and devices using their codes equates to or possibly more than the initial 700M+ estimate.
Upon the reveal, several mobile production partners of Shanghai Adups, including an American mobile device manufacturer – BLU Products, went and released an update/patch for their mobile software, which affected their more than 120,000 users. The update contains security patches, including permanent kill codes for the said Chinese software.
Security researchers have been religiously investigating the software, the codes used, and the exact features it was made for. The Adups Software was designed to collect, consolidate and transmit all data (Full SMS messages, complete phone logs, real-time location information, other user data) straight to Chinese servers located on several locations in China (Beijing and Shanghai). Researchers said that the software has been intentionally hidden and was never mentioned the terms and conditions of using the mobile device or any of the apps/software installed. Users practically won’t have the ability to opt-out or uninstall the intruding app even if they wanted to.
This makes the app somewhat a complete hacker’s tool. Additional studies would indicate that the app and how it was concealed can be used for multiple malware delivery, large capacity phishing campaigns, spear-phishing attacks, and data mining. The possibilities are endless.
For several years now, the Chinese Government has been in the spotlight for similar spying and despicable behavior incidences. They have been notoriously known for their attacks on people’s privacy, not just in their own country but from other nations as well.
They have managed to utilize all the available technological capabilities at their disposal to monitor, track, and spy online. They continue to monitor the airwaves, including the internet for text messages, phone conversations, and chat communications. The Adups Software Company continues to deny any affiliation or relationship with the Chinese Government. But the fact remains that their software was designed to collect and send information directly to Chinese servers located in places controlled by the Chinese Government says otherwise.