Chinese market phones.. are these a bargain?
Posted 04 July 2018 - 08:13 PM
Since Huawei sold dodgy network infrastructure to British Telecom (which is why they got banned from the NBN roll-out), I have tried to steer clear of them. It is important to remember that no matter how independent these companies say they are, they are still controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. This is fine if you are not doing anything security-sensitive, political or commercially confidential on the device (or any other device networked with it). But if you are developing IP or work for the Government, my advice is to stay away from anything from a Chinese company and spend the extra money on something that is not likely to be backdoored or vulnerable to attack. In such a case, go for something made in one of the Five Eyes countries, Japan, the EU or South Korea. Whilst nothing is 100% perfect security-wise, stuff from these places is more likely to be designed with basic security standards in mind and is less likely to have sneaky backdoors to a potentially adversarial government that is known for stealing IP and confidential info.
Otherwise, for purely personal/non-sensitive use, my experience with Chinese smartphones has been hit-and-miss. I have had a couple of cheapo Huaweis that have done the job and been reasonably stable, but that was years ago before I got into cybersecurity (I cannot comment on their more recent products). I have also had a ZTE (which was a shocker as it was totally unstable and kept getting really hot and crashing for no apparent reason) as well as some dodgy no-name Wish tablets that my mate and I got for shits and giggles because they were cheap and looked nasty.
The Wish tablets were a case of "be careful what you Wish for" - they more than lived up to our expectations of how awful they would be. They came with USB debugging already enabled, had less RAM than they reported to Android's GUI, featured an Android application monitor that did not change no matter what apps were running (rootkit much?) and I was able to launch a root shell on them by running a terminal emulator and creating a buffer overflow using a program I wrote in C specifically for that purpose.
Translation: They were dodgy as all hell and there is no way I would ever use my real name or log into an account I care about on them - I have even considered writing my Masters thesis on how crappy they are from a security perspective.
The moral of the story is that whether you go for one of these cheap Chinese brands that hasn't been around for long depends on your appetite for risk and your use case. If you want a device that's reliable and secure, spend the extra money. But if you just want to play Candy Crush, watch YouTube and don't care if your phone shits itself occasionally, go ahead.
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