EBAY IS REMOVING auctions of a Chinese smartphone that looks like a legitimate model but is actually an information snarfing cybersnipe.
The phone and its "extensive" spyware presence was first noted by a German security firm called Gdata. Gdata said that the pre-installed malware looks like an app downloaded from the Google Play store, but does not act like one.
The phone, called the N9500 and built by a Chinese company called Star, sends user information back to China and has access to its camera and messages.
Gdata said that it was alerted to the hardware by its users and assessed their claims forensically.
"The options with this spy program are nearly unlimited. Online criminals have full access to the smartphone. Customers reported a detection by our security solution and thus alerted us to this criminal tactic," said Christian Geschkat, product manager mobile solutions at Gdata.
"The only thing users see is an app with the Google Play Store icon in the running processes; other than that, the application is completely disguised... Unfortunately, removing the Trojan is not possible as it is part of the device's firmware and apps that fall into this category cannot be deleted."
eBay confirmed the removal of listings to us.
"Due to reports that some Star 9500 smartphones are loaded with spyware," it said. "eBay is not allowing the sale of these devices as a precautionary measure."
Despite this, we have found models of the N9500 on sale on eBay and could have bid on one to be sent from China for just £135, if we'd been so inclined.
Some might be persuaded by the specifications on offer, as the handset is a quadcore number with a 5in screen, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. µ