Mobile ransomware targets Canadian porn viewers

The latest variety of the Koler Android ransomware shows a warning message from the RCMP

canadian porn
Credit: CSO staff

Canadian malware victims no longer have to put up with fake FBI notices telling them that they've been caught trying to download illegal content and now have to pay a fine.

The latest variety of the Koler Android ransomware has been localized, and is smart enough to show Canadians a warning message purporting to be from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, according to a report by mobile security company Appthority.

"This is the first one that we've seen specifically targeting Canadian citizens," said Domingo Guerra, Appthority's president and founder.

According to the company, the criminals either set up dummy or clone websites pretending to offer pornography, or put up ads on smaller, niche pornography sites.

After users arrive, they are tricked into thinking that they are downloading a video viewer for their mobile device, but are actually installing malware specific to the region they are from.

The criminals then tell the users that their phones are locked until they pay a fine, or threaten to tell all their contacts that they have been viewing porn.

"This plays not just on the security aspect, but the shame of being caught," said Guerra.

Because of the potential embarrassment, users are reluctant to go to the authorities -- or to company IT departments -- if they have been infected.

Senior corporate executives are particularly vulnerable, said Guerra.

The criminals typically demand payment in the form of gift cards, something that legitimate law enforcement agencies would never do.

That does make users suspicious, Guerra said. "But they're embarrassed because it's a pornography site, so they don't want to tell anyone."

[ Ransomware: Pay it or fight it? ]

The fines started out at around $100, but have recently grown to around $500, he said.

Meanwhile, the criminals themselves are actually not telling the truth about the phone being locked, or about being able to send emails or text messages to the user's contact list.

"Most of the time there is a way to unlock it without paying the ransom," he said. "You boot the phone in safe mode, delete the app, then reset the phone."

And the malware does not actually have the capability to send out messages, he added.

The malware might also say that files have been encrypted.

"They claim to do that, but they actually don't," Guerra said. "It was just a trick."

He suggests that enterprises address the issue by educating employees about only downloading apps from the official app stores -- and where to turn for help if something does happen.

But part of the problem is that Google has been cleaning up its app store.

"Google Play doesn't allow adult content or pornography," he said. "So folks have to go to third-party sites. It's a part of the market that's not being addressed by Google."

This story, "Mobile ransomware targets Canadian porn viewers" was originally published by CSO.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon