Another Android smartphone provided from the Lifeline Assistance program via Assurance Wireless by Virgin Mobile comes with malware preinstalled, Malwarebytes researchers report.
This marks the second time this year researchers found malware preinstalled on government-funded phones. Back in January, Malwarebytes discovered unremovable Chinese malware on the Unimax U683CL, the cheapest smartphone offered by the Lifelife Assistance program. Lifeline is supported by the federal Universal Service Fund, a government program launched in 1985 to provide discounted phone service to low-income households.
Following the first disclosure, Malwarebytes heard from customers whose phones exhibited similar behavior. Further research revealed another smartphone with preinstalled malware.
This time, the affected model is an American Network Solutions (ANS) UL40 running Android OS 7.1.1. While it's unclear whether this phone is currently available via Assurance Wireless, the researchers note its user manual is still on the Assurance Wireless website. Based on this, it assumes the phone is still available and warns some ANS UL40 customers may still be affected.
Like the UMX U683CL, the ANS UL40 comes with a compromised Settings app and Wireless Update app. Researchers say the two models don't have the same malware variants, though the infections are similar. The ANS UL40 comes with Android/Trojan.Downloader.Wotby.SEK. Its Settings app is able to download apps from a third-party app store, which researchers note is "unsettling" but say the apps from this store appear to be malware-free. That said, it's important to keep in mind that malware could still potentially be uploaded at a later date.
WirelessUpdate is classified as a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP) riskware auto-installer, which is able to automatically install applications without the user's consent or knowledge. The app's main function is to facilitate security patches and operating system updates; however, researchers found it auto-installed four different variants of HiddenAds on the ANS UL40.
Read more details here.