You may have seen lightning deals on fantastic phones. For $200, you can receive an up-to-date smartphone with a beautiful retina display, modern camera, and app store integration. Some phones, can be as low as $50. When thinking about such low costs, it’s easy to wonder what the major downside is.
Turns out, some of these phones have a sneaky feature. A backdoor to China manufacturers can mean that your call logs, texts, and data are unknowingly being sent every 24 hours. This is possible through pre-installed software, also knows as firmware, into select Android phones. Users who use cheap, disposable phones and travel outside the U.S are most suspect to backdoor spying.
What This Means for The Users
Most users who hear about secret backdoors imagine bad intentions. For the most part, that feeling is justified. However, nobody can pinpoint the real reason. Shanghai Adups Technology Company, the Chinese manufacturer who wrote the code, claims the software runs on almost a million devices, including phones and vehicles.
The company who found the exploit explains that the software sends text message content, call logs, and any other data to a central Chinese server. What this means to users is unknown. The data could be used innocently for customer support purposes. More than likely, the data is used to collect intel or for marketing purposes. Affected companies realize ill intent and crush the software and any records of data. One of these companies is Blu, who claims they disposed of data on over 100,000 devices.
Moving Forward, Fixing The Exploit
Ultimately, firmware updates are hard to change by both users and phone providers. Anyone who can unknowingly change the phone’s firmware has all the power. Companies who find this exploit work fast to patch it. Google even told Adups to remove the software from phones that contain Google licensed software, including the Play Store. All in all, companies are seeking to remove the exploit in order to restore basic privacy rights.
Unfortunately, Adups didn’t list the models that contain the software. Certain phones out there still have this software without the user’s knowledge. This begs the question, how can users and providers find these exploits before they even happen? Finding a well-made exploit is a tricky process, and appears seemingly harmless. Moving forward, it’s important for providers and cell phone manufacturers to examine closely for exploits.
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