December 28, 2016

You know what's great? Having lots of streaming content available on your TV. What's not so great is when your quest to stream content results in ransomware bricking your TV. One fellow on Twitter shared the story of an LG TV that caught some nasty malware, and now it's apparently useless. Perhaps technology has gone too far.

I know what you're thinking, don't LG's TVs run WebOS? They do now, but a few years back LG sold some sets equipped with the now-defunct Google TV. That's what this particular TV was running. According to one Darren Cauthon, his family member installed an app of some sort to stream movies. The specifics aren't clear, but it appears the app in question was actually malware.

The TV is now locked to a fake FBI notice screen informing the user that illegal content was found, blah blah blah, pay money. This is known as ransomware, a more sophisticated version of which is still terrorizing Windows PCs by encrypting important files and demanding payment in Bitcoins for the decryption keys. In this case, the malware (probably a variant of the old FBI-Lock package) seems to have been granted administrator access to lock the screen. Unknown sources must have been enabled as well.

The ransomware is demanding $500 to unlock the device, but because this is a TV there's no way to navigate the app. Nor is there apparently any way to get into safe mode. A careful observer may also notice that the app is sideways. So, someone did something they should not have done. Actually, probably several somethings.

The kicker is that LG has no protocol in place to fix this. The only solution offered is a $340 service visit. For a TV that's already getting old, it might make more sense to just get a new one that isn't running Google's failed and outdated TV platform. You probably don't have to avoid smart TVs "like the plague," but don't go around installing strange apps on them.

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