Before we jump the gun, let’s be clear on one thing. Bluebox runs a security check mobile app for Android that measures the security level of your phone. It can be downloaded here.
What the folks at Bluebox found was that their test device was, let’s say obtained, from third party sellers which may have compromised. They ran the security check app and found loads of malware.
The Xiaomi Mi4 phone itself was a Chinese version, this means it’s not the international version sold in Singapore, India or Malaysia that is at fault.
What they found on the phone is scary. The third party Chinese retailers have been busy installing stuff into the phone without you knowing about it.
One particularly nefarious app was Yt Service. Yt Service embeds an adware service called DarthPusher that delivers ads to the device among other things. This was an interesting find because, though the app was named Yt Service, the developer package was named com.google.hfapservice (note this app is NOT from Google). Yt Service is highly suspicious because it disguised its package to look as if it came from Google; something an Android user would expect to find on their device. In other words, it tricks users into believing it’s a “safe” app vetted by Google.
Other risky apps of note included PhoneGuardService (com.egame.tonyCore.feicheng) classified as a Trojan, AppStats classified (org.zxl.appstats) as riskware and SMSreg classified as malware
So how do you know if your device is safe? You can take the Bluebox challenge and find out yourself. All you need is to download the free software from Bluebox on the Google Playstore
BlueBox Android App
What this app does is explain some of problems found on your OS. Most of these are not fixable on your own and require updates on the OS. For example the “Settings PendingIntent” vulnerability and ‘GraphicsBuffer Overflow’ are system based. You can’t change them on your own.
Apps with System Level Privilege
Another problem here is Bluebox will flag your device if you have too many System Level Privilege mobile apps installed. This is something out of your control as the apps are on Google Playstore with these requirements. Developers will make use of these APIs in order to create a functioning app and in the process, needs to read your phone state. This makes it difficult for people to approve or deny the system privileges as should you deny them, the app won’t install.
What you can do is write to the developer to ask them for clarification on why they would require these privileges in the first place before installing. If they ignore you, you can flag them up as suspicious.
Beyond this, there is nothing much you can do. Even by having security software installed, you can only detect suspicious apps during installation and avoid them. Security problems inherent in KitKat can only be solved when the system is updated. In the past, at least for my Samsung device, security updates have been rolled out to address some of the problems but Android security problems are much deeper and can only be rectified by Google themselves.