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Did your phone come with preloaded spyware?

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

03 August 2017

This week, Amazon suspended sales of Blu devices after cybersecurity experts found that—yet again—the devices came preloaded with spyware that threatened the privacy of users.

Blu, a Miami-based company selling budget Android devices, were selling the devices preloaded with software that collected sensitive user data and sent it overseas. Certain Blu handsets are alleged to have spyware from Chinese company Shanghai Adups Technology, which leaves users vulnerable to remote takeovers as well as data collection relating to their phone usage.

Blu denies any wrongdoing, and claims that it takes customers privacy and security seriously. However, this isn’t the first time the company has got into trouble for failing to abide by US privacy regulations and Amazon’s marketplace rules.

In October 2016, sales of Blu devices were suspended from Amazon after foreign spyware was found on their devices—including one type of software that even collected location data from cell tower IDs.

Of the suspension, Amazon said:

Because security and privacy of our customers is of the utmost importance, all Blu phone models have been made unavailable for purchase on until the issue is resolved.

But how do you know if there’s spyware on your phone?

It can be tough to notice if there’s spyware on your phone, but you can keep an eye out for several indicators.

A battery that runs down more quickly than normal, and a phone that becomes overly hot, can be a sign that there’s malicious software on your device. If your phone shows activity when its not in use, or your data is being used too quickly, and even if your phone simply takes too long to shut down, it might be time to take a closer look.

There are a number of anti-spyware apps available; these can scan your phone and tell you what software is running, and allow you to delete any apps that appear malicious.

You can also back up your data and files, then do a factory reset on your device. This will delete any spyware, or indeed any software that shouldn’t be there. Once you’ve reset your device, ensure that you have a strong passcode to protect it in future, and don’t download any software from suspect sources, or from outside the official app stores for your device.

Spyware is a serious issue. Don’t buy devices that threaten your privacy—and keep your phone safe at all times.

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