How Chinese Smartphone Manufacturers Actually Are Spying on You
Before you read the rest of this article, Cognoscenti needs to advise you that mobile privacy is a scary, dangerous, and complicated topic. This is written from an American perspective, and is slightly opinionated. But, it is based on real, concrete facts in the mobile tech sector. This is a very, very complicated issue but Cognoscenti tried to make this article as simple as possible. READER BEWARE .
Every single major Chinese smartphone manufacturer has a secondary operating system (OS) for their mobile phones. Xiaomi has MIUI, Oppo has ColorOS, Vivo has Funtouch OS, OnePlus has Oxygen OS, and Huawei has Emotion UI or EMUI.
With a secondary mobile operating system, most smartphone manufacturers opt to use an off-the-shelf baseband processor. This baseband processor is really what allows the Chinese government to spy on you, as hardware-based attacks are not only able to eavedrop and spy on you with ease, but also are dramatically harder to detect.
To allow this type of cyber attack to occur, the Chinese government would need two things: a baseband processor on a Chinese smartphone, and a fake cell tower to which the smartphone can connect. Setting up a fake cell tower only costs $1,000. So, the Chinese government likely puts them in strategic and cost-effective places, such as extremely dense parts of cities, the headquarters of important American companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, and major government bases and offices such as the Pentagon, the Capitol building, and the State Department headquarters.
Once the broadband processor connects to the fake cell tower, the smartphone gets decrypted by a Chinese hacker via the broadband processor. After decryption, the Chinese hacker can inject malware into the phone. Even if the smartphone transfers to another cell tower, the malware still will be in the smartphone. Thus, the Chinese government can eavesdrop on you through your smartphone forever.