A cheap brand of Chinese-made smartphones carried by major online retailers comes preinstalled with espionage software.
German security firm G Data Software said it the code hidden deep in the propriety software of the Star N9500 when it ordered the handset from a website late last month. G Data spokesman Thorsten Urbanski said his firm bought the phone after getting complaints about it from several customers. He has been trying to find the handset's maker without much luck.
In fact the manufacture is not mentioned on the phone or in the documentation. The phone is for sale on several major retail websites, offered by an array of companies listed in Shenzhen, in southern China. G Data said the spyware it found on the N9500 could allow a hacker to steal personal data, place rogue calls, or turn on the phone's camera and microphone. G Data said the stolen information was sent to a server in China.
To be fair there is no indication it is part of a Chinese government snooping plan. Only the US government thinks it is worthwhile listening to ordinary people’s calls and most government targets would not want a cheap and cheerful phone.