Photograph by Brent Lewin — Bloomberg/Getty Images
By Geoffrey Smith
September 8, 2015

It’s more evidence, if you still needed it, that Mel Brooks (in History of the World, Part I) was closer than Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke (in 2001: A Space Odyssey) to understanding the Dawn of Man.

Cybersecurity firm Zscaler has discovered a new variant of malware that uses pornography to lure people into downloading and installing it, then takes photos of them, hijacks the phone and demands a $500 ransom (via Paypal).

The app is disguised as a porn video player called “Adult Player”, which runs on Android operating systems. It isn’t listed in from Google Inc.’s (GOOG) Android app store, and is only available through third-party sites (another example of how Android’s open source architecture leaves it more open to abuse than systems such as Apple Inc’s iOS).

“When the victim starts using it, the app silently takes a photo of the victim, which is then displayed on the ransomware screen, along with the ransom message,” Zscaler said in a blog post.

The threat to broadcast the incriminating photo is implicit rather than explicit. One small mercy for the user, you might suppose, is that a photo of someone waiting for a porn app to install is less incriminating than one of someone actually running a porn video.

The malware automatically becomes active after a reboot, so there is no way for the user to get into device “Settings” and uninstall it.

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