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Low-End Android Smartphones Sold with Preinstalled Malware; Malware Sneaks into Google Play Store

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Low-End Android Smartphones Sold with Preinstalled Malware; Malware Sneaks into Google Play Store Image Credit: NinaMalyna/Bigstockphoto.com

 - Low-End Android Smartphones Sold with Preinstalled Malware; Malware Sneaks into Google Play Store

 - Preinstalled Malware in Android Smartphones Depletes Mobile Data Allowance and Triggers Fraudulent Charges

New low-end Android smartphone devices being sold to consumers in developing markets, many of whom are coming online for the first time, contain pre-installed malware, according to mobile internet company Upstream.

This malware, designed to commit digital ad fraud, collects users’ personal information, depletes their mobile data allowance and triggers fraudulent charges to their pre-paid credit, without their knowledge or consent, says Upstream.

Smartphone penetration in developing markets is growing rapidly, forecast to reach 62 percent by 2020, and, as a result, broadband connections are also increasing, expected to rise to 88 percent in Brazil by 2020, according to the GSMA Mobile Economy 2017 report. That said, the cost of data in emerging markets remains expensive, relative to local income levels, compared to what holds in developed markets (indicatively, in Brazil, 1GB of data would take the average person 6 hours of work to pay for).  Moreover, in emerging markets, where 80 percent of people are unbanked, and most are pre-paid mobile subscribers, carrier billing -a payment method allowing users to purchase digital services by charging payments to their airtime balance- is often the only way they can pay for digital services. The combination of these conditions creates an explosive context for the effects pre-installed smartphone malware has on consumers in emerging markets, says Upstream.

Malware from Google Play Store

Researchers at IBM X-Force uncovered in June that several developers are actively uploading Android malware downloaders to the Google Play Store. Anubis malware designed to steal login credentials for banking apps, e-wallets and payment cards.

Guy Krief, CEO of Uptream
Our Secure-D platform has uncovered that a number of low-end Android smartphones for sale in developing markets, such as Brazil, Egypt, Myanmar and South Africa, are sold with a digital ad fraud malware pre-installed, before the user has even turned the phone on for the first time.

Ray is a news editor at The Fast Mode, bringing with him more than 10 years of experience in the wireless industry.

For tips and feedback, email Ray at ray.sharma(at)thefastmode.com, or reach him on LinkedIn @raysharma10, Facebook @1RaySharma

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