[December 28th 2016]

Software engineer Darren Cauthon tweeted about how: ‘Family member’s tv is bricked by Android malware. #lg wont disclose factory reset. Avoid these “smart tvs” like the plague.’

To put this into some perspective, this isn’t a recent model: he explains that ‘It was one of the first google tvs.’ (Google TV is no longer supported, and LG smart TVs now run on WebOS, apparently. However, Google is said to be working on another Android-based platform.)

Catalin Cimpanu reports for Bleeping Computer that ‘Cauthon says he tried to reset the TV to factory settings, but the reset procedure available online didn’t work.’ When contacted, it seems that LG suggested that an engineer could reset the TV at a cost of $340. Cimpanu suggests that the malware is probably FLocker (a.k.a. Dogspectus).

Commentary by David Bisson for MetaCompliance here.

[June 14th 2016]

An article for Trend Micro by Echo Duan illustrates one of the complications of having an operating system that works on and connects all kinds of otherwise disparate objects: FLocker Mobile Ransomware Crosses to Smart TV.

Of course, embedded versions of operating systems such as other versions of Linux, Windows and so on, are not in themselves novel. FLocker, however, seems to lock smart TVs as well as Android phones, as long as they’re not located in one of a number of Eastern European countries. It claims to be levying a fine on behalf of a law enforcement agency. Apparently another of these agencies that prefers its fines paid in iTunes gift cards. As Zeljka Zorz points out for Help Net Security, this doesn’t say much for the credibility of the criminals, but if your device and data have become unavailable to you, knowing that they’re criminals and not the police doesn’t help much.

While the malware locks the screen, Trend tells us that the C&C server collects ‘data such as device information, phone number, contacts, real time location, and other information. These data are encrypted with a hardcoded AES key and encoded in base64.’

Unsurprisingly, Trend’s advice is to contact the device vendor for help with a locked TV, but the article also advises that victims might also be able to remove the malware if they can enable ADB debugging. How practical this would be for the average TV user, I don’t know.

Back in November 2015 Candid Wueest wrote for Symantec on How my TV got infected with ransomware and what you can learn from it, subtitled “A look at some of the possible ways your new smart TV could be the subject of cyberattacks.” Clearly, this particular aspect of the IoT issue has moved beyond proof of concept.

If cited this before, but it’s worth doing again. Camilo Gutierrez, one of my colleagues at ESET (security researcher at the Latin America office) notes that:

… if the necessary precautions are not taken by manufacturers and users, there is nothing to prevent an attacker from seizing control of a device’s functionality and demanding money to return control. Perhaps this is not a threat we expect to see much of in the near future, but we shouldn’t lose sight of it if we are to avoid serious problems later.

Just as I was about to post this, I noticed additional commentary by David Bisson for Graham Cluley’s blog. He notes that there’s an interesting resemblance between FLocker’s interface and the earlier ‘police’ ransomware he calls Cyber.Police.