A weather app that comes preinstalled on Alcatel smartphones contained malware that surreptitiously subscribed device owners to premium phone numbers behind their backs.
The app, named "Weather Forecast-World Weather Accurate Radar" was developed by TCL Corporation, a Chinese electronics company that among other things owns the Alcatel, BlackBerry, and Palm brands.
The app is one of the default apps that TCL installs on Alcatel smartphones, but it was also made available on the Play Store for all Android users --where it had been downloaded and installed more than ten million times.
But at one point last year, both the app included on some Alcatel devices and the one that was available on the Play Store were compromised with malware. How the malware was added to the app is unclear. TCL has not responded to phone calls requesting comment made by ZDNet this week.
According to Upstream, most of the behavior they've seen originated only from two types of smartphones, Pixi 4 and A3 Max models. However, the company doesn't have a worldwide view into infected devices, and many more could still be infected, especially users who downloaded the app from the Play Store.
All in all, the company says it detected and blocked over 27 million transaction attempts across seven markets, which would have created losses of around $1.5 million to phone owners if they hadn't been blocked.