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China's NetQin accused of installing mobile malware

The news has apparently resulted in the company's smartphone apps for various platforms on at least three Chinese network app stores being temporarily suspended, pending further investigation.

According to the Cellular News web portal, the firm has been accused of installing viruses onto people's mobile phones in order to charge them to remove it.

"A report by the Chinese State-TV service claimed that NetQin - which has recently filed for a stock market listing in the USA - would covertly install a malware app into a handset whenever its own anti-virus program was installed", says the newswire.

"At some point afterwards, the anti-virus software would allegedly trigger an alert, and inform the user that they need an update to their anti-virus software to remove the problem - for which they would be charged 2RMB (US$0.30)", the wire adds.

The newswire notes that China's three cellcos have already blocked sales of the NetQin software through their own app stores, and it is reported that they have shut down the company's ability to charge customers for software upgrades on their bills.

CNET's Asian newswire, meanwhile, names the allegedly offending code as Feiliu and claims that NetQin is charging users 30 cents to remove it from their handset.

CNET also quotes Chinese State-TV as saying that the NetQin app also allegedly uninstalls any other anti-virus app from the users' phone.

The good news is that the alleged malware infection only seems to affect the Java-based version of NetQin's software, meaning that Android NetQin users are apparently fine.

The news could not have come at a worse time for this Chinese IT security company, Infosecurity notes, as it has just filed for a $100 million IPO on the US exchanges.

In an email response to the incident, NetQin said the allegations are "entirely false" and that he company upholds "strong ethical standards and abides by all applicable industry rules".

NetQin provided Infosecurity with its official statment on the matter: "NetQin stands behind the quality of all its products and we are diligent in our work to ensure that all NetQin mobile apps are safe and secure. In fact, we welcome any independent 3rd party to evaluate and audit our products, as we are confident they will be found to be safe, secure and of high quality."