These phones include the Xiaomi Mi 10T and the Huawei P40, which according to the cybersecurity firm, had multiple security flaws and built-in censorship filters.
A report generated by the Lithuanian National Cybersecurity Centre has tested 5G mobile phones from different Chinese brands. According to their findings, one particular Xiaomi phone, the Mi 10T, had built-in filters that censors different sensitive topics such as any discussion regarding Taiwan’s independence, and phrases like “democracy movement” and “Free Tibet”. These are sensitive topics that the Chinese government is trying to dispose away, and there is a Huawei phone with multiple security flaws.
Pre-installed Xiaomi apps such as the Mi Browser, contained a filter that bans certain phrases and topics, according to the Lithuanian NCSC. They also said that, while the function is disabled on European variants of the phones, they can still potentially be activated without prior knowledge from the user using the phones.
“We found that Xiaomi phones sold in Lithuania had the content filtering function disabled and did not censor content, but censored keyword lists were still sent periodically,” said NCSC head of innovation Tatuvydas Bakšys in a statement.
“The device is technically enabled to activate the functionality remotely at any time without the user’s permission and to begin censoring the downloaded content,” Bakšys added.
In addition, Defence Deputy Minister Margiris Abukevicius recommended that users should avoid buying Chinese phones and to throw away for those who have purchased them prior to the findings.
Xiaomi has responded to the findings: “Xiaomi’s devices do not censor communications to or from its users,” a spokeswoman told the BBC. “Xiaomi has never and will never restrict or block any personal behaviours of our smartphone users, such as searching, calling, web browsing or the use of third-party communication software.”
For Huawei, their flagship phone, the P40 contained security flaws in their own app store called AppGallery that automatically redirects users to searches that lead to third-party app stores that lead to malware installation. The organization also tested some OnePlus phones and said that they have not found any issues with them,
but that is about to change, for the worse.
“The official Huawei application store AppGallery directs users to third-party e-stores where some of the applications have been assessed by anti-virus programs as malicious or infected with viruses,” a joint statement by the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence and its National Cyber Security Centre said.
Of course, with this being said, Huawei has to respond, and they did. A Huawei spokesman told the BBC that their phones comply laws and regulations to countries to which they are sold, and that AppGallery only collects data to “allow its customers to search, install and manage third-party apps, in the same way as other app stores.” In addition, the spokesperson also said that the AppGallery performs security checks to determine which apps contain malware to ensure that, whatever the users download, are always safe and free from any malware.