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Affordable, Government-Subsidized Phone Comes with Pre-Installed Malware

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Yikes…

Smartphones and their related phone plans can be expensive. That’s why many low-income Americans depend on the FCC’s Lifeline Assistance Program so they can access quality service at an affordable price.

According to WIRED, the program currently provides UMX U686CL Android phones tied to the Virgin Mobile Assurance Program.

Unfortunately, Malwarebytes reports that the phones contain a malware called HiddenAds, and removing the bad programs could make the phone unusable.

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The surprising thing to security and malware experts is that the malware comes pre-installed in the phone, meaning that customers are getting a defective product right off the bat – and the government is paying to provide it.

WIRED says the malware is capable of installing apps and adware without the user’s permission beforehand. This can subject the phone’s owner to a lot of unwanted ads and unseen data-collection.

One of the apps the device has been shown to download is called AdUps. In 2016, this app reportedly collected data from users without prior consent or warning. Malwarebytes comments that the app itself isn’t of much concern, but it’s still unacceptable that smartphone users are being subjected to data collection, downloads, and adware without their consent or knowledge.

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This isn’t the first time phones for low-income users have been found to carry malware. And the devices are such an important lifeline to low-income people in the digital age that it’s frankly shameful for the government to be providing a pre-infected product.

Share your thoughts (or outrage) in the comments section.