Are smartphones from China safe?

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They are called Huawei, Xiaomi and OnePlus and are smartphone manufacturers from China. The devices are popular because they are high quality and cheap. However, the US government accuses Huawei of espionage. Can customers still buy the smartphones without hesitation?

For a long time, Samsung and Apple dominated sales, but for some years now Chinese I have been increasingly pressingT companies on the market – with success. According to analysts’ assessment, Huawei was clearly in second place ahead of Apple, at least in the first three quarters of last year. Even third place could be contested by Apple this year.

Because in fourth place is Xiaomi, the next competitor with large growth figures. Oppo, another Chinese company, is just behind in fifth place. Oppo devices are not yet available in Germany. But that’s only a matter of time – Oppo has already started in neighboring European countries such as France, Italy or the Netherlands.

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The number of Chinese Android phones in Germany is growing – as is the uncertainty among many consumers. What is it about the espionage allegations against Huawei? Does the Chinese state get the data in the end? We answer the most important questions about smartphones from China.

Why are Chinese Cell Phones Cheap?

“Inside the China hardware, the same components are often installed as for the big brands; some of the devices even run on the same production lines,” writes the comparison portal Verivox. The smartphones are so cheap because the profit margins are small and the profit comes from high sales. In addition, the companies waived larger marketing budgets.

Mobile phone manufacturer Xiaomi uses another business model: advertising. However, this brought in numerous complaints from European users, especially since the switch to deactivate the advertisements was hidden deep in the menus. Xiaomi then announced that it would have more control over the advertisements and play fewer advertisements overall.

Where does the distrust come from?

The software manufacturer G Data discovered several permanently installed malicious spy codes in Chinese smartphones. A large number of data can be tapped via the. “There are still affordable devices directly from Asia that are available in online shops for less than a hundred euros,” says Alexander Burris from G DATA CyberDefense. Well-known Chinese brands such as Huawei and Honor or Xiaomi were not affected by this.

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BSI warns of cheap cell phones

According to Burris, there have been cases with these smartphones “in which malware was preinstalled directly ex works or through a shady intermediary”. The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) is currently warning of buying the Doogee BL7000 and M-Horse Pure 1.

A Xiaomi app caused a sensation last year: the Quick App, which uses other apps but does not have to be installed. Google had blocked the app in its offer because it asked for over 55 permissions and had access to the SIM card number, phone calls, photos and other data. This probably led to Google automatically adding the app to its anti-malware program, which blocked it. Xiaomi then announced that it would provide an update and claimed that the app was safe.

No evidence of espionage at Huawei

Huawei came under criticism especially as part of the 5G expansion. The credibility of the Chinese company has been questioned by politicians. The US accuses Huawei of espionage. So far, however, there is no evidence of this. Even a month-long investigation in 2012 by US security companies was unable to provide evidence of targeted espionage.

In the wake of the trade conflict with China, the Trump administration last year banned American companies from doing business with Huawei without special permission. This also applies to working with Google. For the time being, new Huawei products are not allowed to provide Google services such as YouTube or Google Play on their smartphones. A hard blow for the company. Huawei boss Ren Zhengfei said in November that he could “certainly” promise that Huawei would not release any data to the Chinese government.

Are Huawei and Xiaomi sending data to the government?

“Cyber ​​security law applies to Chinese companies,” explains Lena Rohrbach from Amnesty International. “This law compels IT companies in China to provide information about users upon request and provide technical access for the government. However, that only applies to China. “

Manufacturers are approaching European users

To the best of our knowledge, European citizens are not affected. “Providers like Huawei, Xiaomi or ZTE are paying increasing attention to the needs of the European market and the relationship to privacy,” says Alexander Burris from G Data.

Smartphone expert Frank Ritter from Giga also comes to a similar conclusion: “The devices from Xiaomi and Huawei are closely examined by security researchers. The fact that these cases are uncovered quickly also shows that the manufacturers are interested in them to approach European users. “

What should customers pay attention to when buying Chinese smartphones?

“If you buy cheap, you pay with your data. I therefore always recommend that you only buy smartphones from manufacturers with a branch in Germany,” advises Alexander Burris from G Data. Mobile phone expert Frank Ritter also advises to only buy smartphones from the corresponding shops in Germany and not to import them directly from China. Because there the appropriate interfaces are installed, through which the Chinese government in China has access.

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