Gionee, a Chinese smartphone maker has recently been discovered for practicing illegal control of computer information systems on its smartphones according to a verdict by the China Judgement Document Network.
Based on the court document, some 20 million Gionee smartphones were intentionally inflicted with Trojan horse malware through an application between the month of December 2018 and October 2019. This app becomes a tool of profit from users via an unsolicited ads and other illegitimate practices.
In the court findings, it was found out that Beijing Baice Technology Co. Ltd. had connvived with Shenzhen Zhipu Technology Co., Ltd. (Gionee’s subsidiary) to implant Trojan horse malware into users’ smartphones through an update of the “Story Lock Screen” app.
With the update, the program automatically began serving unsolicited ads to Gionee’s smartphones without the user’s knowledge through the Pull method.
In December 2018, due to the inefficiency of the existing “pull” method, Wang Dengke proposed to implant the hot update plug-in “Dark Horse Platform” into apps such as “Story Lock Screen”. The app and its SDK version with Trojan plug-ins were upgraded, and then the “Dark Horse Platform” was used to install and update the “Living Trojan Horse” without the user’s knowledge, thereby improving the efficiency of the Pull job. The proposal was implemented later on that same month.
According to the obtained court details, it was shown that from Dec. 2018 to Oct. 2019, both Beijing Baice Company and Shenzhen Zhipu company had successfully executed the “pull activities” which was done about 2.88 billion times.
Then from April 2019, the number of devices which were covered by the “pull activity” each month had reached 21.75 million. 26,519,921 of these devices were Gionee’s smartphones by the month of October 2019 alone.
With this, the company was said to have made some RMB 27.85 million from Beijing Baice Company’s “Pulling” business while the estimate expense was about CN¥ 8.425 million.
The court ruled that the defendant Shenzhen Zhipu Technology Co., Ltd. committed the crime of illegally controlling the computer information system; the defendant Xu Li, Zhu Ying, Jia Zhengqiang, and Pan Qi were found guilty of illegally controlling the computer information system and were sentenced to three to three years and six months of jail term and each of them were slapped with a fine of CN¥200,000.
The industrial and commercial filings indicate that the Shenzhen Gionee holds 85% of the shares of Shenzhen Zhipu company which is a subsidiary of the former. The business scope of the Shenzhen Zhipu company includes computer software technology development, advertisement and the use of information network to operate game products. Its registered capital is CN¥10 million, and its legal representative is Xu Li.
This isn’t the first time we’ll be seeing such with cheap and entry-level smartphones. This practiced is indulged by even some high-profile companies like Xiaomi to other smaller Chinese smartphone brands like Infinix, Tecno and Itel.