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Online retail giant eBay has announced they have banned the listing of any Star N9500 smartphones for sale after security researchers recently discovered the Android-based devices had been shipped from the manufacturer with pre-installed malware disguised as a Google Play Store application.

“Due to reports that some Star 9500 smartphones are loaded with spyware, eBay is not allowing the sale of these devices as a precautionary measure,” a company spokesperson told the BBC.

The Star N9500, which is manufactured in China and had been most widely distributed across Europe, and the researchers say there is no way for a user to remove or disable the malicious application or the Android.Trojan.Uupay.D spyware because they are integrated with the smartphones own firmware.

“The spy function is invisible to the user and cannot be deactivated. This means that online criminals have full access to the smartphone and all personal data,” the research team reported. “Logs that could make an access visible to the users are deleted directly. The program also blocks the installation of security updates.

The researchers began investigating the smartphone model after receiving inquiries from some of their customers, and say the malware can allow attackers to secretly install other malicious apps, putting users at risk of having their sensitive data intercepted, banking fraud, and being charged high rates in premium SMS scams.

“The spyware runs in the background and cannot be detected by users. Unbeknownst to the user, the smartphone sends personal data to a server located in China and is able to covertly install additional applications,” the team said.

“This makes it possible to retrieve personal data, intercept calls and online banking data, read emails and text messages or control the camera and microphone remotely.”

Amazon is reported to still be listing the phones for sale, and reports indicate that the actual manufacturer of the devices has not been determined.

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