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Android Users in Africa, South America, and Asia at Risk from Identity Fraud

Smartphone users in the developing world are at risk from pernicious malware that comes as standard on some Android devices, according to mobile internet firm Upstream.

The pre-installed malware collects personal information, depletes mobile data allowances and can initiate fraudulent and unprompted subscription charges.

“Our Secure-D platform has uncovered that a number of cheap smartphones for sale in developing markets, such as Brazil, Egypt, Myanmar and South Africa, are sold with a digital ad fraud malware pre-installed, before the user has even turned the phone on for the first time. It communicates with, and sends unauthorised personal user data to a server in Asia, depleting their data allowance and signing them up to premium subscription services without their consent,” said Guy Krief, CEO of Upstream.

The malware targets consumers who are often going online for the first time and therefore have little or no experience of internet security protocols.

“In emerging markets, where online clicks can trigger a purchase and charges to airtime credit, such online advertising fraud directly impacts the end consumer. These users are immediately falling victim to fraudulent activity, which is using their mobile data allowance and taking money from their air time credit. In one month, we observed over 1.3 million fraudulent attempts to purchase a single digital premium service in Brazil alone, the first of the markets where we identified this issue in. A similar pattern was identified by our Secure-D platform in other emerging markets, like Myanmar, Egypt and South Africa.”

The findings highlight the importance of online security initiatives, particularly in developing markets, where regulation can be lax. – Total Telecom

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