Secret photos taken by porn app used for ransom

American security firm Zscaler has found an app which secretly took pictures of users and then used these images to hold them to ransom.

The Android app, Adult Player, appeared to offer users pornography, but took photos using the phone’s front-facing camera without the users knowing.
Then, the users’ devices were locked with a display coming up demanding $500, and this was difficult to bypass, it is reported.

Apps threatening to release private information or clear a device of its data, unless the person targeted pays money, are known as ransomware. Ransomware is a growing area of cybercrime and is fairly lucrative.

Instances of ransomware had increased by a staggering 127 per cent since 2014, Intel Security announced in August, with laptops and computers the main technology devices affected.

However, as this latest instance of ransomware shows, smartphones can also be affected, and this could potentially be the start of a trend. Although the app was not available on the Google Play store, it could be directly installed from a webpage, which is why experts warn not to install apps unless they are on the proper Google Play store.

For those who have downloaded Adult Player, Zscaler said they should reboot the phone into ‘safe mode’, which loads the operating system (OS) but without any third-party apps running. This allows users to delete malicious software on their smartphone.

“Apps like this rely on the embarrassment factor. If you don’t pay, your reputation is on the line,” said Raj Samani, of Intel Security in Europe. “You can stay safe with some basic common sense. Some ransomware threatens to delete your photos, videos and documents, so back up your data. Then if you are targeted you can wipe your system and start over.”

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