Skip to content

Chinese Phones with Malware Sold to Unsuspecting Africans

Software that eats up mobile data and registers people for unwanted subscriptions has been found pre-installed on thousands of low-cost Chinese smartphones in Africa more than two years after it was first detected. The Triada malware signs mobile users up to subscription services without their permission and has been discovered on Tecno W2 smartphones in countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Cameroon and South Africa, according to a report published this week in partnership with BuzzFeed. Secure-D, the anti-fraud platform that conducted the research, recorded 19.2 million suspicious transactions since March 2019 from over 200,000 unique devices. “The fact that the malware arrives pre-installed on handsets that are bought in their millions by typically low-income households tells you everything you need to know about what the industry is currently up against,” said managing director, Geoffrey Cleaves. “This particular threat takes advantage of those most vulnerable,” he added. China’s Transsion Holdings manufactures the Android devices, which dominate Africa’s smartphone market with a 41% share, according to market research firm IDC. Shenzhen-based Transsion, which listed on China’s version of the Nasdaq last year, has ignored its home market to focus almost exclusively on the continent. It sells more affordable handsets than rivals such as Samsung (SSNLF) and Apple (AAPL) under the brand Tecno Mobile.