This is not the case.
Instead, an accurate assessment is that a previously active Windows botnet is spreading a Mirai bot variant.
Shanghai Adups Technology Co. claims the software "inadvertently" included a secret backdoor.
A number of budget Android smartphones are suspected of sending text messages to China every 72 hours.
Security firm Kryptowire, which first reported the secret backdoor on Tuesday, blamed a firmware developed by Shanghai Adups Technology Company.
The majority of monitoring activities used Adups' Firmware Over The Air (FOTA) update system, developed in response to user demand to screen out junk texts and calls from advertisers.
"Since its founding, Adups FOTA has taken customer and user privacy very seriously," the organization said in a statement published Wednesday.
But the software, according to Kryptowire, transmits sensitive personal data without disclosure or user consent.
Tech Radar released a list of affected models from Miami-based mobile manufacturer Blu. Owners of the R1 HD, Energy X Plus 2, Studio Touch, Advance 4.0 L2, Neo XL, or Energy Diamond are encouraged to check their phone by navigating to Settings > Apps > Menu > Show System > Wireless Update. If it is running 22.214.171.124.004, you're in the clear, Tech Radar said. If it reads 5.0.x to 5.3.x, however, you should contact Blu immediately.
It remains unclear how many of the handsets were sold in the US.
These devices relay information like text messages, contact lists, call history (with full telephone numbers), and unique device identifiers, Kryptowire explained. The firmware also collected details about the use of installed applications, and is able to remotely program the gadget.
Shanghai Adups, however, claims this is all a misunderstanding; a simple mistake that has since been rectified.
"In June 2016, some Blu Product, Inc. devices applied a version of the Adups FOTA application that inadvertently included the functionality of flagging junk texts and calls," the company statement said. "When Blu raised objections, Adups took immediate measures to disable that functionality on Blu phones."
It also confirmed that no information—text messages, contacts, phone logs—was disclosed, and any data received from a Blu phone during that period was deleted.
"Also, Adups has been working to further improve the privacy protections in its products. Adups sincerely apologizes to its partners and users," it continued. "We will enhance process management and work to improve transparency, and deliver high-quality products and best service to provide the best possible data security for all our customers."
Neither Google nor Blu immediately responded to PCMag's request for comment.
ZTE, meanwhile, maintains that none of its US devices "have ever had the Adups software installed on them, and will not," the mobile manufacturer told Android Headlines.
Google has apparently told the company to also remove its software from any Android phones that run its app store, Google Play. Data collection and transmission on the affected phones are handled by two system applications – com.adups.fota.sysoper and com.adups.fota – neither of which can be disabled by the user. According to Kryptowire, data transmission of text messages and call logs takes place every 72 hours, and all other personally identifiable information is sent every 24 hours. The data is sent to four servers: bigdata.adups.com bigdata.adsunflower.com bigdata.adfuture.cn bigdata.advmob.cn They all resolve to the same IP address – 126.96.36.199 – which belongs to Adups. Further adding to suspicions, communication between phones and the servers included two elements that allow the data sent to be connected to a specific phone number.
In other words, rather than simply collecting data and aggregating it – something a lot of companies do (but disclose), the Adups software purposefully makes it possible to identify and track specific phones. In some respects, the Adups software is even more intrusive than the infamous Carrier IQ spyware, which was revealed in 2011 to be key-logging and transmitting data secretly.
That discovery sparked an outcry.
The technology was recently bought by AT&T. While Adups doesn't grab key logging or email address information, it does something much more worrying – enables apps to be updated and installed, and allows for remote execution and privilege escalation. As such, it would be possible for Adups to identify a specific phone, install additional spyware on it, and grant full access to the phone.
It would also be able to remove that software at a later date – ie, it would be the perfect spying tool. The specific phone that the researchers discovered the firmware on was the BLU R1 HD.
CEO of BLU Products, Samuel Ohev-Zion, said that the company was not aware of the firmware's capabilities, and that the company has now removed it. According to Adups, the software featured on the phone tested by Kryptowire was not intended to be included on phones in the United States market. ® Sponsored: Customer Identity and Access Management