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Lithuania to Citizens: Dump Those Phones From China

Nation warns that devices from Huawei, others could be vulnerable to cyberattacks, censoring
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2021 11:33 AM CDT
Lithuania to Citizens: Dump Those Phones From China
A Huawei smartphone is photographed in London on Oct. 21, 2020.   (AP Photo/James Brooks)

(Newser) – Citizens in Lithuania may want to double-check what country their smartphones were made in, as there's now a new warning out from the defense ministry telling them to dump devices manufactured in one particular country. "Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible," Defense Deputy Minister Margiris Abukevicius told reporters on Tuesday, per Reuters. Abukevicius made this announcement as his lead-in to a report by the government's National Cyber Security Centre, which found phones from Huawei and other Chinese companies were vulnerable to censoring issues and cyberattacks.

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The report found that Mi 10T 5G phones from Chinese tech giant Xiaomi Corp. have a built-in feature that finds then censors such phrases as "Long live Taiwan independence," "Free Tibet," and "democracy movement." Although this feature is switched off for phones in Europe, it's able to be turned back on remotely, the report warns. Insider notes that pro-independence and pro-democracy conversations about Taiwan, Tibet, and Hong Kong are "highly sensitive" topics in China that often get censored on social media, and punished.

Meanwhile, the report dinged Huawei's P40 5G phone for being vulnerable to cyberattacks, warning that the company's app store "directs users to third-party e-stores where some of the applications have been assessed by anti-virus programs as malicious or infected with viruses." No security flaws were found in a 5G phone made by Chinese consumer electronics company OnePlus, per the report.

Huawei is scoffing at Lithuania's claims, with a spokesperson telling the BBC that "data is never processed outside the Huawei device," and that its app store "only collects and processes the data necessary to allow its customers to search, install, and manage third-party apps, in the same way as other app stores." Xiaomi, meanwhile, didn't respond to requests for comment from either the BBC or Reuters. (Read more Lithuania stories.)

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