One of the most frequent complaints we get from readers is that, “My ObamaPhone was hacked from day one.”
Quite honestly, we have doubted those concepts, but now researchers are telling us those readers may have been right. They tell us that some Lifeline phones (from some Lifeline companies) really are loaded with malware that traps ObamaPhone users in an non-stop series of pop-up ads. Those ads are annoying enough, but it means data is being consumed even when the ObamaPhone user isn’t using his ObamaPhone.
A cnet.com investigator made this report:
The phone’s settings and update apps contained code that allowed them to load malicious apps known as adware. The adware displayed ads that covered users’ screens, no matter what they were doing on their phones.
…Because the phones and their service plans were subsidized by a US program, taxpayers were funding the data that was used to display the promotional campaigns. On top of that, the adware prevented the phones doing their intended job: keeping low-income people connected to vital services via phone and internet.
Evidence suggests pre-installed malware plagues inexpensive phones around the world. Earlier this year, Collier found pre-installed malware, a broad range of disruptive or dangerous apps, on a phone made by Unimax and distributed by the Lifeline program. Collier says he frequently sees similar malware on cheap phones outside the Lifeline program.
As you might expect, Unimax did not appreciate cnet.com’s defining the issue as “malware.” In a comment that made us laugh out loud, it said it preferred to call it “a vulnerability in its settings app.” Sounds so much more innocent, does it not?
But this is not a mere inconvenience to ObamaPhone users. A cell phone — even a free ObamaPhone — is worthless if you can’t use it because it is cursed with pop-up ad after pop-up ad after pop-up ad.
Of course, a spokesman for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the government agency in charge of the ObamaPhone program said, “The security of Americans’ cell phones is critical, and the FCC urges Lifeline providers to protect consumers from adware and malware.”
Add this ridiculous situation to recent FBI raid on Q Link, and it becomes obvious that the ObamaPhone program has some major problems. A lot of critics are taking note and asking why the government spends billions of dollars on a program that with so many problems.
Clean it up, FCC, clean it up.