HTC America has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it “failed to take reasonable steps” to rid its Smartphone and tablet software of security flaws, placing the data of millions of consumers at risk.
The settlement requires HTC to develop software patches to fix flaws found in millions of HTC handsets. The firm must also establish a “comprehensive security program” to tackle security risks during the making of HTC devices and “undergo independent security assessments” every other year for the next two decades.
HTC has already begun to proffer patches to device owners in the U.S., the FTC said.
The FTC complaint claimed HTC did not provide adequate security training to its engineering staff and neglected to test the software on its mobile devices for potential security flaws; failed to follow accepted secure coding practices; and failed to set up a procedure for dealing with vulnerability reports from consumers.
The vulnerabilities on HTC’s devices allowed malicious applications to send text messages, record audio, or even install additional malware on devices, “all without the user’s knowledge or consent,” the FTC said, adding such things as users’ financial account numbers and related access codes or medical information were put at risk.
The complaint also claimed “user manuals for HTC Android-based devices contained deceptive representations, and that the user interface for the company’s Tell HTC application was also deceptive.”
HTC has said previously none of its customers have been affected by security issues. The firm, which issued a patch to its devices starting in 2011, has not admitted or denied any wrongdoing.
“Privacy and security are important, and we are committed to improving practices that help safeguard our customers’ devices and data,” HTC said in a statement to a number of media outlets. “Working with our carrier partners, we have addressed the identified security vulnerabilities on the majority of devices in the U.S. released after December 2010. We’re working to roll out the remaining software updates now and recommend customers download them once available.”
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