The Chinese manufacturer claims to have no knowledge of the actions, blaming the “supply chain”.
Anti-fraud firm, Upstream, have discovered several cases of phones from Chinese brand sold in Africa found to come preloaded with malware. The malware signs up users to subscriptions services without permission, and has been found on several thousand phones sold on the continent.
The malicious code was discovered on 53,000 phones sold in Ethiopia, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, and South Africa.
Upstream has stated that Transsion, which is the parent company of the smartphone brands Tecno, Infinix, and iTel, was taking advantage of the “most vulnerable” customers.
“The fact that the malware arrives preinstalled on handsets that are bought in their millions by typically low-income households tells you everything you need to know about what the industry is currently up against,” according to Geoffrey Cleaves, head of Upstream’s Secure-D platform.
These malware constantly attempt to signup to various subscription services without the knowledge of the owner of the phone, and if it’s successful, it consumes both the airtime and mobile data on the device.
Upstream found a total of over 200,000 cases of “suspicious activity”on Tecno smartphones alone, and considering they are under the same umbrella as Infinix and iTel, it paints a really grim picture.
Transsion Holdings is the largest phone manufacturer in Africa and ranks in the top 10 globally, but they’re the only ones to focus almost solely on “low income” markets in Africa.
Tecno Mobile have responded and claim that it was an old security issue which they have already solved, and customers should download the OTA fix or reach out to their after-sales service support for assistance.
A Chinese Problem?
Transsion aren’t the only Chinese manufacturers guilty of these practices with several low cost manufacturers caught in the act. These companies sell phones at very low prices, but with questionable hardware choices, and apparently their software can’t be trusted either.
So, what do you think? Are you a Tecno/Infinix/iTel user? Have you had to deal with mysterious data/airtime drain? Let us know in the comments.