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Chinese courts find Gionee guilty for implanting malware in its 20 million smartphones

By Liu Hongzuo - on 7 Dec 2020, 1:01pm

Chinese courts find Gionee guilty for implanting malware in its 20 million smartphones

Gionee F8 Neo.

Between December 2018 and October 2019, more than 20 million Gionee smartphones carried malware programmed to help unscrupulous e-advertising platforms rake in money for user interaction (real interaction or otherwise). The scummiest part of it all? The malware was installed by the phone maker itself.

China Judgment Document Network, the online publication that documents Chinese court rulings, found Shenzhen Zhipu Technology Co., Ltd. guilty of controlling IT systems without user permission or knowledge. Four of its defendants were held accountable and are sentenced to a jail term averaging three years to three years six months, on top of a CNY200,000 (~S$40,000) fine each. Shenzhen Zhipu Technology Co., Ltd. is a subsidiary of Shenzhen Gionee Communication Equipment Co., Ltd., with Gionee owning 85% of shares. Its accomplice was Beijing Baice Technology Co., Ltd.

The detected malware is none other than the Lock Screen functionality itself. Source: cnBeta.

According to court details, Gionee phones were already serving malicious adware and malware before December 2018, but Beijing Baice Technology felt that then-technology was inefficient. To earn more money from unsuspecting users, both companies needed a piece of a software that executed "pull activities" that resembled interaction with online advertising installed onto the phones. The interactions would pay both Gionee and its partner company for successfully serving the installed ads.

As a result, the companies updated Gionee smartphones over-the-air with a trojan horse update under the guise of updating its lock screen. This upgraded the malware within the devices, and were more effective at "pulling". In the 10 months (December 2018 to October 2019), 21.75 million Gionee phones were infected, and both companies raked in CNY27.85 million (S$5.68 million) from serving ads and using the phone's resources to simulate real user interaction with ads.

Source: cnBeta via GizmoChina

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