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ALERT: Chinese Malware Discovered on Budget Phones - Are You Affected?

January 13, 2020





Hey Guys,


Chinese malware has been discovered on low cost smart phones by security firm Malwarebytes. Their investigation uncovered two malware apps on these devices that can have huge impact on the functionality of the phone and the privacy of the device user.  The device used in their investigation, the UMX U686CL,  is Chinese made and sold by Assurance Wireless for as little as 35 dollars. Sprint have also been questioned about this and are currently in discussion with the device manufacturer Unimax. As we understand devices in this price bracket are also offered to low income families under a USA Assistance Program which also raises more questions, in particular, about the integrity of the programs and whether the help they offer actually does have a cost, namely user privacy.


Malicious Malware No. 1: Wireless Update App

One of the malicious apps is named Wireless Update and is a 'system level' application which means, firstly, that it is impossible to remove it from the device but also it can perform a number of tasks without user consent, essentially having almost unrestricted privileges. This would include things like installing apps in the background, granting permissions, accessing certain data, and could even collect user data and create 'backdoors' for access to the device. It was also discover that the same Chinese company who programmed this Wireless Update app, also programmed another app called Adups which was part of an enormous data breach in 2016 affecting more than 700 million devices.


Malicious Malware No. 2: Currently Unnamed

This malware, which has yet to be named, contains a Trojan called Hidden Ads. Hidden Ads does the annoying thing we all hate and displays ads when you are using your device irrelevant of the app you are using at the time. It was hidden deep within the Settings of the device so that removing it could affect the functionality of the phone to the extent that the phone doesn't work at all.  While we do understand what part of this malware does, its code contains too many Chinese character to ascertain if it has any further functions.


My best advice would be to avoid phones made by this manufacturer. In this case, even the best anti malware may not detect this well hidden, and until now relatively unknown malicious software.  Be selective and careful about what device you do choose and protect it and your data well.





All the best,

Max Roberts.




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