Sep 23, 2019 | Updated: 11:17 AM EDT

Security Firm G DATA Reports Spyware-Infected Phones Capable Of Recording Conversations And Stealing Other Data

Sep 04, 2015 01:36 AM EDT

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Is it high time to steer back to Blackberry? Or Nokia, for that matter? Or maybe nothing’s safe anymore, really.

With all OEM’s and mobile companies building their devices in China, due vigilance is needed in procuring new devices. German security firm G DATA reports that at least 26 samples of smartphones shipping from China, with models from Chinese mainstream mobile brands Xiaomi, Huawei, and even Lenovo, shipped with spyware installed.

The spyware has been reported to record calls, copy contact information, record location data, and even turn audio recording apps on and randomly recording audio from the user. In short, these spyware steal data, and in a very big way.

The spyware come disguised as regular Android staples, such as Google Drive and even the Facebook app. These apps aided the programmers behind them to steal bank information, as well.

G DATA asserts that the spyware were installed by middlemen, and not the mobile makers themselves. When asked who the possible suspects were, G DATA Christian Lueg admits, “We lost the trail in China.”

Swati Khandelwal, who broke the story on Hacker News, notes that the spyware on the 26 samples were embedded in the firmware. So, contrary to reports from other news outfits, the spyware cannot be removed using third-party antivirus apps.

Malware attacks have increased steadily in 2015 alone. Here are the stats, as outlined by G DATA:

-G DATA claims to being able to detect a new strain of malware every 14 seconds.

-There has been a 25% increase of malware detections in the 2nd Quarter of 2015, as opposed to the 1st Quarter of the year.

-G DATA was witness to 6,100 new malware samples emerging every day in the 2nd Quarter of 2015. In the 1st quarter of 2015, G DATA only saw about 4,900 daily.

How does the user protect themselves from the possibility of purchasing a spyware-infected device, then?

-Choose a smartphone brand that has production centers or factories outside of China, as well as brands that are not on this list. LG, Asus and HTC have not been identified as infected or bloatware-ridden devices, just yet, so these three brands are good places to start. Also consider brands from countries such as Japan or Korea, especially those that don’t partner with Chinese factories. Check this list to see which brands belong to which countries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mobile_phone_makers_by_country

-Most smartphone stores have WiFi. As you test out the unit you’ll buy, install good Android anti-virus apps such as G DATA’s own app, Lookout Mobile Security, or Avast!, and run a malware scan.

Chilling times call for vigilant measures, but there’s no need to be paranoid. Thanks to security researchers such as G DATA, anti-malware companies can update their solutions and keep the majority of mobiles secure.

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