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Forget Game of Thrones as Android ransomware infects TVs

FLocker malware shows regional preferences

Researchers at Trend Micro have spotted a new variant of ransomware code that can be used to lock down Android-powered smartphones and televisions.

The FLocker (short for the Frantic Locker) malware has been in circulation since at least April 2015 and has concentrated on locking down smartphone handsets running the latest builds of Android. But the writer keeps on adding new features and has now extended the code to give smart TV owners problems too.

Not everyone is vulnerable, however. After the malware file is downloaded via an infected website or SMS file, it waits for 30 minutes before scanning its surrounding. If it determines the device is in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, Armenia or Belarus, then it shuts down.

If the user isn't in one of those countries, the code will try and install a command and control system on the smartphone or TV. This requires the user to give the app admin permissions, but if that isn't forthcoming the malware will freeze the screen and then ask again under the guise of an operating system update to fix the "problem."

Once installed, it will flash up a message on an infected phone or TV claiming to be a law enforcement organization and demanding a $200 fine to be paid in iTunes gift cards – which is never the preferred method of payment to a government body – in exchange for the code to unlock the device.

"If an Android TV gets infected, we suggest user to contact the device vendor for a solution at first. Another way of removing the malware is possible if the user can enable ADB debugging," the advisory reads.

"Users can connect their device with a PC and launch the ADB shell and execute the command 'PM clear %pkg%.' This kills the ransomware process and unlocks the screen. Users can then deactivate the device admin privilege granted to the application and uninstall the app."

This kind of cross-platform vulnerability is going to get a lot worse as more and more devices share operating system features with their computing and smartphone cousins. You can expect this to become a much bigger problem. ®

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