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Consumers Targeted Again: Android Phones with Pre-Loaded Malware

Generally, when a consumer purchases their new smartphone, the routine is set. The phone is purchased, the consumer is rather exuberant, and the phone is used, while the user assumes all is fine. In certain instances, the users have a surprise.

Avast Threat Labs recently detected adware pre-installed on phones. The affected phones are vast, as a few hundred models and versions are affected. The targeted phones were manufactured by ZTE, Archos, and others. The adware placed on the phones was known to be present for over three years and previously was named Cosiloon. Cosiloon has tended to be difficult to remove from the phone as the adware is placed on the firmware level and applies solid obfuscation.

The annoying addition to the baseline Cosiloon displays an ad in the form of an overlay on the user’s selected webpage. With this being difficult to remove, Google has opted to increase the awareness of the issue by contacting the appropriate firmware engineers and developers.

The deeper issue involves the intentional placement of the adware on the phones, to the detriment of the user, and without their express consent. The standard operating procedure is not appropriate. If the user accepts and knowingly authorizes this, the issue is moot. This is however not the case. The manufacturers may be gaining an additional revenue by placing the adware on the phones. This business practice should cease.

About the Author - Charles Parker, II has been working in the info sec field for over a decade, performing pen tests, vulnerability assessments, consulting with small- to medium-sized businesses to mitigate and remediate their issues, and preparing IT and info sec policies and procedures. Mr. Parker’s background includes work in the banking, medical, automotive, and staffing industries.

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