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Lithuanian agency warns against use of Chinese-made phones

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuanian cybersecurity experts are urging the country’s government agencies to abandon the use of Chinese smartphone brands after an investigation identified security vulnerabilities and censorship concerns with certain devices.

Lithuania’s National Cyber Security Center said it found four major cybersecurity risks for devices made by Huawei and Xiaomi, including two relating to pre-installed apps and one involving personal data leakage, and warned against using these two brands. Xiaomi phones, which contain a content-filtering feature for 449 keywords or groups of keywords in Chinese characters, also carry the risk of possible restrictions on freedom of expression, according to the Lithuanian investigation.

The cybersecurity center warned the function could be activated at any time and said it did not rule out the possibility that words written in Latin characters could be added. According to the Lithuanian report, apps receive updated lists of censored words and phrases and are capable of blocking them. The phrases include “Free Tibet,” “Voice of America,” “Democratic Movement” and “Long Live Taiwan Independence.” Although the content-filtering feature was disabled and no censorship was performed on the phones the Lithuanian center inspected, the center warned the function could be activated at any time.

A Huawei spokesperson in Lithuania denied the allegations.

Xiaomi denied its phones could be used to censor or posed privacy risks, saying they complied with the European Union’s stringent privacy regulations.

“Xiaomi’s devices do not censor communications to or from its users,” the company said in a statement. “Xiaomi has never and will never restrict or block any personal behaviors of our smartphone users, such as searching, calling, web browsing or the use of third-party communication software. Xiaomi fully respects and protects the legal rights of all users.”

The cybersecurity center, which is a Defense Ministry agency, also investigated phones made by another Chinese company, OnePlus, but found no problems.

“We strongly recommend that state and public institutions not use those devices and plan to initiate legislation which regulates acquiring certain devices for the ministries and various state agencies,” Deputy Defense Minister Margiris Abukevicius said Wednesday.

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