According to researchers millions of smartphones come with malware pre installed

According to researchers, millions of smartphones come with malware pre-installed

Millions of smartphones around the world are shipping straight from the factories with malware embedded in their firmware, Trend Micro experts said at the Black Hat Asia conference. First of all, we are talking about cheap mobile devices for Android, but smart TVs, smartwatches and other gadgets are catching up.

    Image source: Gerd Altmann /

Image source: Gerd Altmann /

Brands often delegate the release of mobile devices to contractors – OEMs. Firmware developers involved in this scheme often infect them with malicious code before sending them – this threat has been known for years, but Trend Micro experts characterize it as “a growing problem for end users and businesses”. Installing malicious code is like injecting an infection into the root of a tree, which then spreads down the entire trunk down to the last branch and leaf.

The introduction of malware began when the price of cell phone firmware plummeted. The competition became so fierce that at one point the firmware was offered for free. But, of course, nothing is free and installing so-called silent plug-ins has become widespread. Trend Micro experts analyzed dozens of firmware samples for malicious code and found more than 80 such plugins, some of which were sold through closed channels, while others were openly sold through social networks and blogs.

Malicious software allows you to intercept SMS messages, hack social networks and instant messengers, and earn money from ads and click fraud schemes. Attackers gain access to data about keystrokes on devices, users’ geographic location, their IP addresses, and other information. Sometimes devices become proxy servers, exit nodes leased for up to 1200 seconds.

According to researchers, the number of such infected devices is measured in millions, and most of them are in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe – and the criminals themselves speak of 8.9 million units. The report’s authors did not directly identify the source of the threat, but urged the audience to think for themselves where the majority of OEMs are based and draw conclusions. Malware was found on the devices of at least ten providers, and around 40 others are at risk. And the way to protect yourself from the threat is quite simple: it is recommended to stick to the products of big brands, although this cannot be a guarantee of security.


About the author

Robbie Elmers

Robbie Elmers is a staff writer for Tech News Space, covering software, applications and services.

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