Indian Air Force has banned the use of Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi’s Redmi 1s budget phones among its rank and file, including their families over some confirmed reports that the user data is automatically sent home to servers in Beijing raising serious security and privacy concerns.
Citing the interntional security firm’s advisory, a note issued by IAF said: “F-secure, a leading security solution company, recently carried out a test of Xiaomi Redmi 1s, the company’s budget smartphone, and found that the phone was forwarding carrier name, phone number, IMEI (the device identifier) plus numbers from address book and text messages back to Beijing.”
The note, issued immediately after F-Secure made it known early this month about the serious security lapse, was based on the intelligence unit’s recommendation, corraborated by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In).
Without the user’s knowledge or consent, it was found that the Xiaomi phones send personal data of the user once he or she boots it up and the data is stored back home in Beijing where it has its servers located currently.
Xiaomi defended its move saying the feature is to allow users to send SMS messages without having to pay operator charges, which did not go well with its so-called renegade province Taiwan too. Soon after the revelation by F-Secure, a government agency in Taiwan has sent a strong notice to Xiaomi to explain its response and ordered a probe.
“What Xiaomi did originally was clearly wrong: they were collecting your address book and sending it to themselves without you ever agreeing to it,” said Mikko Hypponen of F-Secure. “What’s more, it was sent unencrypted,” he noted.
Amid the mounting suspicion, Xiaomi quickly responded on Wednesday with ablog in Google Plus by its India chief Hugo Barro who tried ally the fears saying it is hiring servers on Amazon cloud AWS service in California and in Singapore to keep the info of its users.
Moreover, Xiaomi has significantly boosted its market position in Singapore, India and Malaysia, despite intense competition from the industry giants like Apple and Samsung, which are also accused of storing similar data but with permission.
Xiaomi is popular in India with its flash sale of Mi3 and Redmi 1s smartphones which sell at the rate of 100,000 in less than 5 seconds, creating a new trend in online sales.
Recently, the Chinese web monitoring group Greatfire.org said the pro-government hackers sought to obtain Chinese Apple users’ personal data, though the allegation was denied by the government.