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700 million Android phones have spying firmware preinstalled

December 21, 2016

The term “mobile phone security” is something of a joke these days, with the number of exploits, bugs, and breaches that are endlessly assaulting us and putting our personal information at risk. So, when security outfit Kryptowire sounded the alarm on Chinese company Adups for using its preinstalled apps to spy on Android users with Blu smartphones, it wasn’t exactly a shock. Now, however, the impact of Adups alleged spying is growing in magnitude, and it’s dragging other Android device manufaturers into the quagmire.

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Adups is a company that facilitates over-the-air updates for mobile devices, so its firmware is preinstalled on lots of devices. However, the firmware does much more than it claims, and has the ability to snoop in areas that it shouldn’t, and without the user ever knowing. That information can then be collected by Adups for whatever purposes it desires.

Trustlook, another digital security firm, dug deeper on what devices utilize Adups and could be used by the Chinese company to scrape your private information, and the list is absolutely massive. Trustlook says that over 700 million Android smartphones have Adups firmware installed that puts the user at risk of having text messages, call histories, and device information collected without their knowledge or consent.

Many of the manufacturers who utilize Adups are smaller companies who only release their devices in Asia or specific smaller markets. However, there are a few notable names on the list, including Lenovo, ZTE, and the aforementioned Blu.

The Blu R1 HD was the first device found to be relaying this sensitive information back to Adups, and the company took action to halt the app’s nefarious habits, but it’s now up to the rest of the dozens and dozens of manufacturers on the list to do the same. The best course of action right now seems to be keeping the phone as updated as possible, and installing any security patches that come down the pipeline.

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