Malware can Now Hold Your Smart TVs to Ransom

Remember when the makers of TeslaCrypt gave up their master key to allow antimalware companies to finally combat it? If you’ll recall, the general feeling was one of ominousness rather than relief, and this could be why. Ransomware is growing, and now it’s coming for your televisions.

Smart TVs running on Android operating systems are now under threat from a new strain of ransomware called Frantic Locker (shortened to FLocker). It is capable of locking up your TV, making it completely unwatchable and giving you 72 hours to pony up 200 USD worth of iTunes Gift cards, or your telly’s bricked.

Though the first instances of this insidious virus were discovered over a year ago, in May 2015, its creators have been working on countless iterations since then, making it harder and harder for antivirus software to detect and block it. Currently, there are over 1,200 variants of the malware.

This little monster worms its way into your TVs by hiding in various malicious apps. It is known to lay dormant for about 30 minutes after being downloaded before springing to life and demanding the user give it admin rights. If the user declines, FLocker freezes the screen with a fake system update message. This usually scares people into giving it the access it needs to truly take root.

For whatever reason, FLocker deactivates itself if the device it has infected is located in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, or Belarus.

Should your television become infected, anti-ransomware company Trend Micro recommends the following:

"We suggest user to contact the device vendor for solution first if their Android TV gets infected. Another way of removing the malware is possible if the user can enable ADB debugging. 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."

Beyond that, just do your best to stay safe. As we move closer and closer to the Internet of Things, security and malware threats are going to become a much more widespread concern. Remember the basic rules of safety: don’t download anything from a source you don’t trust, don’t click on any e-mails from someone you don’t know or aren’t expecting to hear from, and don’t believe what that website says; you’re not the millionth visitor and you haven’t won an iPad, trust me.