Thousands of low-priced Android phones are reportedly sending user data to China
You and your friends may all have the newest iPhone, but you're actually in the minority: Over 80% of smartphone users are using an Android phone, according to IDC.
Many of these Android phones are of the low-cost variety. Not Samsung's big flagship Galaxy phones, or even Google's flashy new Pixel, but models you've never heard of - unlikely to be advertised during Monday night football - that get the job done. These are phones made by Chinese giants like Huawei and ZTE, often re-branded in the US and sold under other names.
These phones are ubiquitous, which is why it's so scary that an unknown number are reportedly sending private user data to China every 72 hours.
You read that correctly: A newly-discovered piece of software running in an unknown number of Android phones is reportedly sending a variety of private user information directly to Chinese servers every 72 hours. The software, created by a Chinese firm named Shanghai Adups Technology Company, is said to be in hundreds of millions of devices - it's not clear how many of those devices are in the US, or how many users are affected.
The news comes from a report Tuesday morning in the New York Times - a security firm named Kryptowire identified the malicious software, and said it does more than just archive/collect your text messages (though it also does that).
Apparently the software collects "the full contents of text messages, contact lists, call logs, location information and other data," and then sends that data to a Chinese server. US officials told the NYT that it's unclear whether the software was being as a means to collect user data for advertising or as a means of intelligence collection.
A rep from the Chinese software company characterized the move as, "a private company that made a mistake," and said Adups isn't connected to the Chinese government. The software was allegedly written and used with the intent of assisting with customer support for one of Adups' clients, an unnamed Chinese company.
It's unclear how many phones are affected, or even how to tell if your phone has the malicious software running. Apparently US customers using a phone internationally, and customers who use prepaid phones, are most likely to be affected. At least one US phone company, BLU, has announced that around 120,000 of its phones were impacted; the company says it updated those phones to remove the issue.
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