The U.S Government Funded Pre-Installed Unremovable Malware on Smartphone
Malwarebytes security researchers found pre-installed malware on UMX U683CL handsets, which are made for under the lifeline program to low-income earners for affordable Communications.
They have been multiple users that had reported to Malwarebytes that hidden ads suddenly get installed on their devices ( UMX Mobile ), so the company purchased a UMX U683CL to carry out there own security analysis of the phone firmware.
Pre-installed Malware on UMX U683CL
Assurances wireless company that offered the UMX U683CL phones, which cost a low price of $35 under the government-funded program.
Once a user gets and starts using the device in question, An automated process begins, which an app calls wireless update installed without the end-user consent, which doesn’t notify or request any permission to authorize the installation of the application, it does on its own.
A malicious app detected as Android/PUP.Riskware.Autoins.Fota.fbcvd get’s installed during the update process. The Agent is heavily obfuscated and it is a vital part of the system. It is a variant of Adups malware.
The UMX phone has been shipped with a malicious firmware with pre-install malware with system-level rights, which was confirmed by Malwarebytes after an in-depth analysis of the phone firmware.
“It’s with great frustration that I must write about another unremovable pre-installed app found on the UMX U683CL phone: the mobile device’s own Settings app functions as a heavily-obfuscated malware we detect as Android/Trojan.Dropper.Agent.UMX.”
“The more discernible variant of this malware uses Chinese characters for variable names. Therefore, we can assume the origin of this malware is China.”
The Trojan agent downloads another piece of the malware known as HiddenAds. The malware strains display aggressive ads, and it is hard for an end-user to find which app displaying the advertisements.
Malwarebytes informed Assurance Wireless about their findings of the pre-installed malware on their devices, but Assurance Wireless didn’t respond.
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To note the UMX mobile device is made by a Chinese company, it’s unclear who installed the malware as several companies involved in the device supply chain between device manufacturer to the buyer.
There is no current solution, uninstalling the wireless Update may lead to missing out critical OS updates.