Assurance Wireless Phone Upgrade 2020 – Malwarebytes said it detected malware on pre-installed Unimax U673c phones sold by Assurance Wireless (Virgin Mobile) in the US.
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Low-end smartphones sold to low-income Americans through a government-subsidized program contain malware that cannot be removed, according to a report today by Malware Bytes.
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The smartphone model is Unimax (UMX) U686CL, an entry-level Android smartphone manufactured in China and sold by Assurance Wireless, part of the Virgin Mobile group of mobile service providers.
The telecommunications company sells cellphones through the government’s Lifeline program, which subsidizes phone service for low-income Americans.
“In late 2019, we noticed several complaints to our support system from government phone users reporting that some of the pre-installed programs were malicious,” Malwarebytes said in a report released today.
The company said it has acquired the UMX U686CL smartphone and analyzed it to confirm the reports received.
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For starters, Malwarebytes said it discovered that one of the phone’s components, an app called Wireless Update, contained the Adups malware.
The Adups malware was discovered in 2017 by Kryptowire and is a malicious firmware component created by a Chinese company of the same name.
The component is supposed to allow firmware vendors to update their code, but in 2017 the Kryptowire team discovered that Adups (the company) also has the ability to push updates to users’ phones, bypassing smartphone vendors and users.
Malwarebytes reports that this component was currently used on UMX devices and was used to install applications without the user’s knowledge. It is not clear to whom.
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“Once the [UMX U686CL] mobile device is accessed, Wireless Update automatically starts installing apps,” the Malwarebytes team said. “I’ll repeat myself. it did not collect the user’s consent, the buttons to be pressed to accept the settings, it
It is important to note that these apps are added to the device without any notifications or permissions requested by the user. This opens up the possibility of unknowingly installing malware at any time during the next update of any of the apps added by Wireless Update.”
But Malwarebytes said a second dangerous component was included in those phones. Researchers said they also found suspicious code in the phone’s Settings app.
The application, according to Malwarebytes, was infected with malware that appeared to be very confusing, believed to be of Chinese origin due to the heavy use of Chinese characters as variable names.
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Security researchers claim that this malware is coded to work as a second-tier malware downloader, a popular adware strain known as HiddenAds.
“While we have not yet replicated the additional malware removal ourselves, our users have reported that indeed the HiddenAds version is suddenly being installed on their UMX mobile devices,” Malwarebytes said.
Malwarebytes researchers said they could not confirm that it was Unimax that added the malware to the devices.
This could be another case of malware being added to devices by third parties involved in the smartphone supply chain while the devices are moving from the phone manufacturer to the customer.
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Malwarebytes claims that while the device is a “decent phone”, having two infected with malware renders the smartphone useless and even dangerous for users.
While users can disable and uninstall the Wireless Update app, doing so will cause the phone to miss important security updates to its firmware components, effectively stopping the app, at least if you want to update your device.
The Settings app, on the other hand, is literally static, as there’s no way to uninstall the app, and even if you did, you wouldn’t be able to control your phone afterwards.
In a statement, Assurance Wireless said they are “aware of the issue and are in contact with the manufacturer of the Unimax device to understand the root cause, however after our initial testing we do not believe the programs described in the media are malicious.”
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Related The best Samsung Galaxy phones you can buy (including foldables) 19 of the best holiday deals from Verizon 45 of the best holiday phone deals: iPhone 15 Pro, Google Pixel 8, Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 months into this first cell phone that funded by the government after the publication of the investigation. , we were contacted by a concerned user about his own device, the ANS UL40. After a thorough investigation, we again discovered pre-installed malware.
As of this writing, UMX (Unimax) Communications has officially removed all pre-installed malware from the UMX U683CL. Their latest software update fixes the issues.
Please note that if you are infected with Android/Trojan.HiddenAds.WRACT, you still need to remove it, although Play Protect will offer a message calling it dangerous and warning users to remove it.
We would like to thank UMX (Unimax) Communications for resolving this issue, although they still disclaim ownership. Back in January, UMX made a public statement.
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After investigating this issue, Unimax Communications has determined that the applications described in the message are not malicious programs… However, while testing these applications, Unimax Communications has discovered that there may be a potential vulnerability in the Settings application library. Because of this, Unimax Communications has updated the software to fix the potential vulnerability. As far as Unimax Communications is aware, no customer data has been compromised.
A program that accidentally released malware. We stand by our original claim that the app itself is malicious because of its Trojan capability; The release of HiddenAds trojan on UMX devices is undeniable.
The primary purpose of our message was to inform and protect users, both customers and non-customers. More importantly, we took this issue to the press to find a solution when there was no other option for UMX customers. .So, while we’re glad that Unimax has taken steps to ensure that our users and their users can use their devices safely, we’re disappointed that they took such public steps to find a solution in the first place.
At the time of initial publication, we have yet to replicate the ./Trojan.HiddenAds Android malware released on our test device, although many users have reported that their UMX mobile phone has suddenly had a version of HiddenAds installed.
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As of today, we can report that our UMX U683CL test phone has been infected with a variant of HiddenAds, which we identify as Android/Trojan.HiddenAds.WRACT. This variant has been seen in the wild since spring 2019. It runs silently in the background and does not create an app icon. Evidence of it running in the background can be seen in mobile device notifications. At the bottom, the notification box that changes its name is highlighted in red.
Fortunately, there is a way to find and remove this app. If you press and hold the notification, it will give you the option to go
This will take you to the app’s notification settings. From there, tap on the app icon at the top.
A US-funded mobile carrier that offers phones through the Lifeline Assistance program is selling a mobile device pre-installed with not one, but two malware. Virgin Mobile’s Assurance Wireless offers the UMX U683CL as the most budget-friendly option. At just $35 for the government-sponsored program, it’s an attractive proposition. However, the fact that it is installed is terrible.
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In October 2019, we saw several complaints in our support system from users with government phones reporting that some of the pre-installed apps were malicious. We purchased the UMX U683CL to better assist our customers and test their requirements.
We informed Assurance Wireless of our findings and asked why a US-funded mobile carrier would sell a mobile device infected with pre-installed malware. After giving them enough time to respond, we unfortunately did not receive a response. Here’s what we found.
The first suspicious app found on the UMX U683CL presents itself as an updater called Wireless Update. Yes, it is capable of updating the mobile device. This is essentially the only way to update a mobile device’s operating system (OS). Conversely, it is also capable of automatically installing programs without the user’s consent.
So we detect this app as Android/PUP.Riskware.Autoins.Fota.fbcvd, a detection name that should be familiar to Android clients. That’s because the app is actually a variant of Adups, a Chinese company that has been caught collecting user data, building mobile backends and, yes, developing auto-installers.
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The moment you sign in to your mobile device, over-the-air update starts installing apps automatically. To reiterate: it doesn’t require user consent, there are no buttons to accept the installation, it just installs apps on its own. Although the apps it installs are initially clean and malware-free, it is important to note that these apps are added to the device without any notifications or permissions requested by the user. This opens up the possibility of unknowingly installing malware at any time during the next update of any of the apps added by Wireless Update.
It’s a big disappointment that I have to write about yet another non-removable pre-installed app
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