The saying “internet is for porn” proves to be quite correct in some cases. Ransomware scammers recently exploited a bug found in Apple’s Mobile Safari browser to extort fees from people who partook in viewing porn on their devices. Although the vulnerability has been patched since, it goes to show mobile browsing habits can lead to a lot of trouble down the line.
Viewing Porn In Safari Leads To Extortion
This exploit allowed criminals to pose as law enforcement agencies. Through this loop of popup windows, the hackers claimed users had to pay a ransom to regain control over the Safari browser. Unlike what one would expect this ransom was not paid in bitcoin, but rather in the form of iTunes gift cards. These codes are globally available and 100% anonymous, making them perfectly suited for nefarious online activity.
This iTunes gift card code had to be sent in the form of a text message to a random mobile phone number. A lot of people fell for this trick, even though there was a more than viable alternative solution available that did not require paying the ransom. Instead, going into the device settings and clearing the browser cache would have the same effect. Some less tech-savvy people may not have known about his trick, which is why they paid the ransom in iTunes gift cards. They got caught with their pants down, so to speak.
Using fear as a factor to demand a ransom from victims is nothing new these days. Earlier versions of ransomware software disguised themselves as messages sent by local police officials, warning the user about illegal activity on the internet. Said victims also had to pay a ransom to criminals to get rid of the message. During times like this, a lot of people are too embarrassed to ask for outside help and they see no other option than to meet the criminals’ demand.
Security researchers believe this attack is derived from a similar attack actor used against Android device owners back in 2014. That particular campaign revolved around forcing users to pay a US$300 ransom using Paysafecard or uKash, otherwise they would be investigated by the police for “consuming illegal pornography”. It is unclear if this iOS exploit is developed by the same people, though.
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