A nasty Trojan that allows malicious actors to remotely control infected devices has been pre-loaded on many types of Android tablets sold on Amazon and other online stores, Cheetah Mobile has warned.
The Chinese mobile security firm has pointed to many online reviews from people who have purchased tablets infected with the malware. The dates of these reviews show that the threat has been around for many months.
The Trojan, dubbed “Cloudsota,” allows attackers to take control of infected devices and conduct various activities, including install adware and malware, remove security apps, change the browser homepage, hijack search results, push ads via the boot animation and wallpapers, and open applications. Since the threat has root permissions, it can restore itself after a reboot if the user attempts to remove it from the device.
Based on data collected by its product, Cheetah Mobile estimates that more than 17,000 infected tablets have been purchased, but the actual number could be much higher considering that many devices might not have antivirus apps installed. Tablets infected with Cloudsota have been traced to over 150 countries, with the highest number of infections in Mexico, the United States and Turkey.
Researchers have identified more than 30 tablet brands pre-loaded with the Trojan, the most affected being generic brand tablets with Allwinner chips. The list of infected devices includes JYJ 7, JEJA 7 Zoll, FUSION5, Alldaymall Tablet, Yuntab SZ Wave, and Tagital.
Cheetah Mobile says it has notified affected manufacturers and advised them to analyze their firmware, but none of them responded. The security firm says the infected tablets are made by Chinese companies.
Cheetah Mobile says it’s confident that the attackers behind Cloudsota are from China. This conclusion is based on an analysis of Cloudsota code and a server used by the malware, and the fact that the devices are manufactured in China.
Shipping mobile devices with pre-installed malware is not a new phenomenon. A report released in 2014 by mobile security firm Lookout showed that malware had been pre-loaded on phones sold in Asia and Africa. A second quarter report published by G Data in September revealed that malware had been found on over two dozen smartphone models from China.
Related Reading: Rethinking Mobile Security – Why Apps Come First