Low Budget Should Not Mean High Risk: Kids' Tablet Came Preloaded with Sketchyware

Deeplinks 2023-11-16


It’s easy to get Android devices from online vendors like Amazon at different price points. Unfortunately, it is also easy to end up with an Android device with malware at these lower budgets. There are several factors that contribute to this: multiple devices manufactured in the same facility, lack of standards on security when choosing components, and lack of quality assurance and scrutiny by the vendors that sell these devices. We investigated a tablet that had potential malware on it bought from the online vendor Amazon; a Dragon Touch KidzPad Y88X 10 kid’s tablet. As of this post, the tablet in question is no longer listed on Amazon, although it was available for the majority of this year.

Blue Box that says KidzPad Y88X 10

Dragon Touch KidzPad Y88X 10

It turns out malware was present, with an added bonus of pre-installed riskware and a very outdated parental control app. This is a major concern since this is a tablet marketed for kids.

Parents have plenty of worry and concern about how their kids use technology as it is. Ongoing conversations and negotiations about the time spent on devices happen in many households. Potential malware or riskware should not be a part of these concerns just because you purchased a budget Android tablet for your child. It just so happens that some of the parents at EFF conduct security research. But this is not what it should take to keep your kid safe.

“Stock Android”

To understand this issue better, it's useful to know what “stock Android” means and how manufacturers approach choosing an OS. The Android operating system is open sourced by Google and officially known as the "Android Open Source Project" or AOSP. The source code is stripped down and doesn't even include Google apps or the Google Play Store. Most phones or tablets you purchase with Android are AOSP with layers of customization; or a “skinned” version of AOSP. Even the current Google flagship phone, Pixel, does not come with stock Android.

Even though custom Android distributions or ROMs (Android Read Only Memory) can come with useful features, others can come with “bloatware” or unwanted apps. For example, in 2019 when Samsung pre-installed the Facebook app on their phones, the only option was to “disable” the app. Worse, in some cases custom ROMS can come with pre-installed malware. Android OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) can pre-install apps that have high-level privileges and may not be as obvious as an icon you can see on your home screen. It's not just apps, though. New features provided with AOSP may be severely delayed with custom OEMs if the device manufacturer isn't diligent about porting them in. This could be because of reasons like hardware limitations or not prioritizing updates.

Screen Time for Sketchyware

Similar to an Android TV we looked into earlier this year, we found the now notorious Corejava malware directories on the Dragon Touch tablet. Unlike the Android TV box we saw, this tablet didn’t come rooted. However, we could see that the directories /data/system/Corejava and /data/system/Corejava/nodewere present on the device. This indicates Corejava was active on this tablet’s firmware.

We originally didn’t suspect this malware’s presence until we saw links to other manufacturers and odd requests made from the tablet prompting us to take a look. We first booted up this Dragon Touch tablet in May 2023, after the Command and Control (C2) servers that Corejava depends on were taken down. So any attempts to download malicious payloads, if active, wouldn't work (for now). With the lack of “noise” from the device, we suspect that this malware indicator is at minimum, a leftove&l



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Alexis Hancock

Date tagged:

11/16/2023, 10:36

Date published:

11/14/2023, 17:04