In , for instance, the mobile security firm Krytpowire uncovered Chinese malware on as many as million budget Android devices. Hidden in a benign support app, the pre-installed, third-party software would secretly send full text messages, contact lists, call history, location data, and other sensitive information to a server in Shanghai every 72 hours. The offending company, Shanghai Adups Technology Co. Chinese malware hidden in smartphones certainly sounds suspicious, but it's hardly a smoking gun.
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After all, the greatest threats that computers and mobile devices around the world faced in the past year, Spectre and Meltdown, stemmed from security flaws in American-made chips. For phones to function properly, many core processes require access to your location data, calls, and messages.
So while many Chinese smartphones don't actively use any Chinese apps, as the Adups case reveals, they still have firmware and other relatively innocuous pre-loaded background software that communicate with servers in China.
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Chinese tech companies play a central role in the government's far-reaching surveillance apparatus that closely monitors what its citizens are doing and saying online. Under China's sweeping cybersecurity law, companies are required to give authorities full access to its data upon request.
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So when it comes to Chinese-made smartphones, the worry is less about nefarious hackers hiding malware on phones, and more about where data from mundane apps is going. When a person sets up their new phone and taps "I agree" on the confidentiality agreement, they are essentially handing over their personal data to whoever made their phone.
And when in comes to Chinese companies, that might be a mistake. Eugene K.
One of China's largest phone makers had a glaring security flaw that hackers could pounce on, researchers said. On Thursday, Check Point security researchers disclosed a vulnerability with Xiaomi phones , stemming from its preinstalled Guard Provider app. The app is intended to be a security feature, with three antivirus programs packed inside to detect malware. But the security feature introduced a vulnerability, according to Check Point researcher Slava Makkaveev.
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This means that if an attacker was on the same Wi-Fi network as a potential victim, the hacker could insert malware in those updates through a " man-in-the-middle attack. Check Point said it's disclosed this vulnerability to Xiaomi, and that the phone maker has released a patch to fix the flaw. Xiaomi phones are some of the most popular devices in China, and the company boasts its own foldable phones and high-end gaming phones.
Xiaomi said it sold about Preventing vulnerabilities on your phone is hard already, with people having to watch out for hundreds of thousands of bad apps every year. When the security flaw comes preinstalled , it creates a new challenge as millions of people are exposed to an attack from the moment they boot up their devices. Malware is appearing more frequently on phones.
And with this vulnerability on Xiaomi devices, an attacker had plenty of options, Check Point said.