Under the US FCC’s Lifeline Assistance Program, low-income US citizens can purchase $35.00 phones. However, recent reports indicate that something’s amiss.

It appears that the phones are preinstalled with malware. To remove the malware would prevent the phones from functioning. “Uninstall Settings app, and you just made yourself a pricey paper weight,” wrote one researcher.

The malware “can install adware and other unwanted apps without the knowledge or permission of the user.” The implications here are alarming, and any conspiracy theorist would fly into a panic, as these phones are procured by the government (even if sold by a third-party).

One of the apps that entrenches itself into the phone is a variant of another app, known as Adups. The Adups app is produced by a Chinese company branded under the same name. Four years ago, the company quietly collected the data emerging from hundreds of thousands of similarly inexpensive phones.

For users, the phones’ security vulnerabilities subject them to daily unpleasantries in the form of adware. In addition, it puts personal information at-risk.

Although one publication covering the story recommends for low-income individuals to spring for higher quality phones from mainstream and well-known providers, it fails to ask the preeminent question, “Why is the US government purchasing phones from little-known, non-mainstream suppliers, given that their operations may present a domestic security threat?”

This in turn, brings us to an even larger question, “In the interest of national security, should certain types of products only be manufactured domestically?”

Assurance Wireless, the company responsible for distributing the phones in the US, stated that they have communicated the recent findings to the device manufacturer, however, Assurance Wireless is not certain that the applications causing issue are in-fact malware.

For the technical details on this story, visit ZDNet.