Transsion Holdings, the Chinese company behind Tecno and Infinix smartphone brands used to be a feature phone manufacturer pre-2014 but since the company released its first smartphone in 2014, the start-up has grown rapidly to emerge as a leading brand in Africa and some Asian countries like India. The brand is known for low-priced smartphones that have given low-income earners in these developing nations access to smartphones.
However, that cheap phone may come with a price which in the long run makes it an expensive sh*t. A recent report by BuzzFeed News alleges that some Chinese phones contain malware that secretlydownloaded apps and tries to subscribe the user to services without his knowledge or permission. A case in point was that of a 41-year-old South African who got the Tecno W2. The phone was plagued with pop-up ads interrupting his calls and chats. The victim hinted that he had woken up on several occasions to find his prepaid data mysteriously used up and messages about paid subscriptions to apps he’d never asked for.
In a collaborative investigation by BuzzFeed News and Secure-D, a mobile security service, it was discovered that the software pre-installed on his hone was infected with xHelperand Triada malware which was draining his data and at the same time attempting to steal his money through such unsolicited subscriptions.
Further, Secure-D hinted that its system which mobile carriers use to protect their networks and customers against fraudulent transactions reportedly blocked 844,000 transactions connected to preinstalled malware on Transsion phones between March and December 2019.
BuzzFeed News quotes a Transsion spokesperson to have confirmed that some of the company’s Tecno W2 phones contained the hidden Triada and xHelper programs, blaming an unidentified “vendor in the supply chain process.” The company also hinted that they have always attached great importance to consumers’ data security and product safety.
“Every single software installed on each device runs through a series of rigorous security checks, such as our own security scan platform, Google Play Protect, GMS BTS, and VirusTotal test,” the spokesperson added. Transsion declared that it did not profit from the malware but declined to say how many handsets were infected.
Apart from Transsion, Secure-D had previously discovered preinstalled malware on Alcatel phones made by another Chinese phone maker TCL Communication, in Brazil, Malaysia, and Nigeria. The security firm also exposed how Chinese technology preinstalled on cheap smartphones in Brazil and Myanmar robbed users with fraudulent transactions.
While cheap phones are mostly purchased by ow-income earners in developing nations, the United States is also not left out. Earlier this year, a security service, Malwarebytes, found preinstalled malware which originated from China in two phones offered to citizens with low incomes as part of the US government’s Lifeline program, which provides subsidized phones and mobile data.