Ransomware porn app takes photos of users and holds phone hostage

A form of ransomware disguised as a pornographic Android app has been discovered, which secretly takes pictures of the user.

Adult Player tempts the user into downloading the app by supposedly offering pornographic content, but then uses the phone’s front-facing camera to take photographs of the unsuspecting user.

Security firm Zscaler found that the app then disables the smartphone before demanding $500 (£330), supposedly in the form of an FBI fine for viewing illegal content. In reality, it is simply a ploy by cyberattackers to extort money from their victims, in what is becoming an increasingly common occurrence. In fact, Adult Player is not the first pornography-based ransomware found by Zscaler and there are a number of other malicious apps that use similar methods to pressure their victims.

The BBC reports that instances of ransomware have increased by 127 per cent since 2014, largely targeting desktop PCs, but with a number of smartphone-based attacks beginning to crop up. Ransomware can prove extremely lucrative for attackers, with Intel Security noting that one particular ransomware group made in excess of $75,000 in 10 weeks.

Adult Player, which was not available from the official Google Play store, highlights the importance of only downloading apps from trusted sources. Unlike Apple’s iOS, Android devices allow individuals to download applications from third-party markets, but this does mean that the apps are not subject to the same security standards.

In order to avoid malicious apps like Adult Player, chief security officer at Intel Security Raj Samani simple advises “common sense.”

“Some ransomware threatens to delete your photos, videos and documents so back up your data,” he explains. “Then if you are targeted you can wipe your system and start over. Only download apps from the proper Google Play store. And if you receive an app download link in an email, don't click it."

Raj Samani, CTO EMEA Intel Security commented: “Ransomware and crypto malware, such as that imposed by pornographic app ‘Adult Player’, is rising at an alarming rate. Intel Security’s most recent Threats Report uncovered that ransomware shot up 127 per cent in the past year alone.

"We are increasingly seeing hackers blackmailing online users with their most private and sensitive information, or even photos. Thanks to the pseudo-anonymity provided by digital currencies such as Bitcoin, hackers can simply buy the skills required to launch an attack online and accept ransom payment through the same technology.

"This makes ransomware and crypto malware a lucrative enterprise for online criminals – with successful attackers raking in tens of thousands worth of Bitcoin in matter of weeks."