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Cheap Tablets Aren't Just Crap, They're Dangerous

Illustration for article titled Cheap Tablets Arent Just Crap, Theyre Dangerous

As you head to your local Walmart today for America's annual reenactment of The Hunger Games, here's a reminder that sucker-punching someone to get the last $50 tablet might not be the wisest course of action. For several reasons.

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The main complaint that you hear against the kinds of cheap, Chinese no-brand tablets filling the aisles at Walmart is that they're terrible to use — and they are! But, it turns out that cheap tablets also tend to be riddled with security problems. Bluebox Labs, a security software firm, recently ran a test on a number of cheap tablets on sale at big-box stores. Unsurprisingly, they found security holes you could drive a small truck through.

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A bunch of the tablets they tested had the malicious app protection — the setting that prevents you from installing apps from unknown sources — turned off by default. That makes it far more likely that the five-year-old you foist the tablet off to will download malware, and your credit card number will be gone before you can say 'suspicious charges from a Siberian minicab firm'.

The worrying discoveries don't stop there, either. A number of the tablets came rooted out of the box, making them more easily compromised by a lazy hacker; a couple were signed using a test signature for AOSP, a custom version of Android, which would make rolling out a malware-infected system upgrade easy; and Staples' $39 tablet even had some security features painstakingly removed for no good reason.

Then, of course, there's the programs that come pre-installed to ruin things. Bluebox didn't go into details, but claimed that a few tablets came installed with adware, or custom versions of Angry Birds that collect extra user data.

So, from a security perspective, it's fairly clear that cheap tablets are crap across the board. And it's not like there's any other redeeming features: cheapo crap tablets are - surprise! - universally slow, buggy, often don't have access to Google's app collections, never get updates, and are built with components that make an Etch-A-Sketch look premium. If you really want a tablet for $50, pick up a used Nexus 7 off eBay — or better, save up the extra hundred bucks and splurge on something that actually works. [Bluebox Labs]

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Image credit: ajt/Shutterstock

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DISCUSSION

So it would be a great gift for someone you really hate, right?

At my area's Walmart, the line last night for the super cheap 7" tablet was regoddamndiculous, more than 300 people! For a sub-$50 RCA tablet!