Some MetroPCS phones unsafe: Congress
By Wilson Dizard
Some of Gotham’s cheapest 4G phones may be Manchurian candidates, said a House panel.
MetroPCS, a no-contract wireless carrier servicing New York and other cities nationwide, offers a suite of smartphones from Huawei and ZTE, major Chinese electronics manufacturers that members of Congress slammed last week for allegedly posing a threat to US economic and national security.
The House Intelligence Committee, after a year-long investigation into the two firms, warned businesses not to trust the companies’ wares, saying American “network providers and systems developers are strongly encouraged to seek other vendors for their products.”
China’s two biggest tech manufacturers emphatically denied the report’s findings, with Huawei calling it “misguided protectionism.”
MetroPCS offers five bargain Huawei phones and two handsets from ZTE, according to its website. As of June, the company had 9.3 million subscribers, a year-to-year increase of 2 percent, according to the latest company filing.
MetroPCS, which is in merger talks with T-Mobile, did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment, but experts in network security explained that hacking a cellphone would be the quickest and easiest way to gain someone’s sensitive information.
“The main concern for consumers would be identity theft or simple invasions of privacy. Cellphones are designed for being great at gathering information about you — every e-mail, every text and every phone call,” said Tom Wilson, a systems administrator.
“Anyone who can control the phone can spy on you, and you would never know it.”
If the manufacturer is involved, a bugged phone could make it from the factory to the hand of a person targeted for surveillance, he added.
In August, cybersecurity mavens at the Defcon hackers’ conference in Las Vegas reportedly discovered multiple rudimentary flaws in Huawei network routers that could let someone hijack the devices remotely over the Internet.
MetroPCS saw its stock dip 6.1 percent last week, as Sprint said it was in talks with Softbank, a Japanese conglomerate.