Stick ‘Em Up

It’s taken far longer than anyone would have expected, but one small group has attained equality. Not that they appreciate it.

Back in 2003, I talked about a couple of unrelated cases where Apple ran afoul of pornography issues. The first* was the first appearance of “ransomware” on Apple computers. Unlike ransomware on other platforms, no files were encrypted. The software essentially locked the Safari browser onto the page demanding ransom. Kill the browser, delete your browser history, and everything would be back to normal.

* The second case concerned a lawsuit filed against Apple. The plaintiff, one Chris Sevier, declared that easy access to pornography via his iPhone had resulted in his becoming addicted. The suit demanded that Apple add pornography filters to every device they sell. The case is still active. Although it was dismissed in October of 2015, Mr. Sevier appealed the dismissal and continues to pursue the matter. His most recent filing includes an attempt to link the case to a separate suit against HP and Carly Fiorina–and accuses the Tennessee judiciary of being “completely out of control”.

Mr. Sevier has also attempted to judicially link Apple to the fight for equal rights, claiming that if same-sex marriage is legal, it should also be legal for him to marry his computer. I presume this is not the evil iPhone which addicted him to pornography and destroyed his previous marriage.

Poor Apple.

It’s taken almost three years, but Mac users finally have ransomware that’s as much of a pain in the rear as Windows and Linux users.

As ArsTechnica (among other venues) reports, a malware program called KeRanger specifically targets OS X, encrypting files and demanding payment in bitcoins. Mac users, welcome to this frontier. Now that the first settler has arrived, you can be sure there will be plenty of others following. Be careful out there.

Mind you, Windows ransomware authors aren’t sitting idle. BleepingComputer has a rundown on Cerber. This otherwise-typical ransomware package goes one step beyond the usual pop-up dialog box to let you know your data is being held hostage: it uses Window’s voice synthesis routines to speak its message.

I suppose the next escalation will be to replace the soundtracks of your pornographic videos with synthesized instructions for how to pay the ransom.

Oddly, Cerber won’t take your data hostage if your computer is located in Eastern Europe. Perhaps this is a safety precaution to prevent the programmer from being assaulted by his own code.

Speculation that the programmer is in league with the porn producers of Prague seems to be unfounded, as the Czech Republic is not on the “safe” list.

Stupidity Runs Rampant

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Remember our discussion last week about Apple’s collision with the seamier side of the Internet? We talked about the fact that “ransomware” was beginning to show up on Apple’s computers, and specifically mentioned a piece of software that informs the computer owner that child pornography has been detected on the computer and that a fine must be paid to the FBI to avoid a criminal investigation.

According to the police in Prince William County Virginia, a resident of the county got the warning message while he was, in fact, looking at child pornography. Apparently he is in other respects a law-abiding citizen, as he promptly packed up his computer and took it to the local police station, where he asked if there were any warrants on file for his arrest. (Just to be clear here, I’m not suggesting that the man in question was using an Apple computer. Similar ransomware has been around in the Windows world for years, and there’s nothing in the police report that indicates what OS he was using.)

Of course there were no warrants, but the police were quite interested in the contents of the computer, and the subsequent search turned up “inappropriate messages and photos of underage girls”; at least one has been identified–a thirteen year old girl in Minnesota. On that basis, the police obtained a search warrant for his home and seized “computers and other electronic devices”. He is now being held without bail on charges of “possession of child pornography”, “using a communication device to solicit certain offenses involving children”, and “indecent liberties with a minor”.

I have this mental image of the guy standing there in the police station saying “Why are you arresting me? It said I could just pay a fine!”

I suppose the police’s forensic investigation tools bypassed the ransomware, but perhaps not. I’d be interested to see how they worded the expense report if they had to pay the ransom to get to the man’s data. Heck, maybe the ransomware author should get the payment as a reward for, in effect, turning the guy in.

Back to the original dilemma. Do we laugh at this guy’s gullibility, or do we cry over the fact that you apparently need no brain at all to convince children to send you inappropriate pictures of themselves? Kudos to the police for not making their press release into a cry for more legislation, but instead reminding parents to actively monitor their children’s Internet usage.