Anyone looking for a cheap smartphone may get more than they bargained for. German security company G Data found that Chinese smartphones are being shipped with pre-installed spying software.
The Generic Star N9500 has a 5-inch screen, dual cameras, and a quad core processor. It also comes with the Uupay.D spyware program, pre-installed, which steals data from the phone and relays it back to a server in China.
“The possibilities with this spy program are almost limitless,” said Christian Geschkat, G Data’s product manager for mobile solutions, in a blog post.
With the spying software, the phone can retrieve your personal data, listen to your phone calls, get your online banking data, read your emails and text messages, and China’s hackers can remotely control your camera and microphone.
The smartphone is manufactured in China and sold on Amazon and eBay for around $159.99.
Aside from being a major invasion of privacy, the data gathered on the phone can be used by criminals for bank fraud, credit card fraud, and online scams.
The spying software is disguised as a Google Play service that runs in the background without the user’s knowledge. It can also quietly install new software without the user’s knowledge.
Geschkat noted they began researching the phone after one of their customers said it sprang an alarm on a computer security program.
They found the Uupay.D spying program in the phone’s firmware, the fundamental layer of code that interacts with the hardware. The Google Play icon it poses as cannot be disabled, nor can it be removed.
Geschkat said that the recipients of the stolen data, and how the data is used, are still unknowns.