Over 50,000 low-cost smartphones from this Chinese brand were sold with pre-installed data stealing malware

By: |
August 26, 2020 1:04 PM

In totality, Upstream said that it found "suspicious activity" in more than 2 lakh smartphones by Tecno.

Transsion Holdings is one of the major phone manufacturers in China.Transsion Holdings is one of the major phone manufacturers in China. (Image: Reuters)

Phone malware: Thousands of Chinese phones having built-in malware were sold to people in Africa, anti-fraud firm Upstream has found. Malicious code was found on 53,000 handsets of Transsion’s subsidiary Tecno, and these handsets were sold in several African countries, including South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Egypt and Cameroon. The malware allegedly signed the users of the phones up to subscription services without their knowledge or permission.

Soon after this was flagged by the firm, Transsion, the manufacturer of the phones, claimed that the malware was installed in the supply chain without the company’s knowledge.

In a statement, Upstream said that the phones infected with the malware were typically bought by people on a lower income. The statement also quoted Upstream’s Secure-D platform head Geoffery Cleaves as saying that the threat was taking advantage of the most vulnerable people, adding that the fact that the malware was pre-installed in handsets of a phone that were bought in large numbers by people in low-income groups was self-explanatory about what the industry was up against.

The Triada malware found in these Android smartphones installed a malicious code, xHelper, and this code then found subscription services and sent fraudulent requests on behalf of the users without the user ever knowing about such a request. If the request was successful, the subscription services then consumed the pre-paid airtime.

In totality, Upstream said that it found “suspicious activity” in more than 2 lakh smartphones by Tecno.

Transsion Holdings is one of the major phone manufacturers in China and is the top-selling phone manufacturer in Africa, according to IDC.

Tecno said that the issue was an old one and it had occurred globally. A fix for it had been issued in March 2018. It added that the current users of Tecno W2 who were facing issues due to this malware should download the over-the-air fix through the phones, or contact the after-sales service. It further said that consumer’s data privacy and security was of great importance to it, and that every software on every phone went through rigorous checks.

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