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Stare in Wonder at This Smart TV Bricked by Ransomware

All I want for Christmas is a non-bricked TV. Photo: Darren Cauthon

Here’s a fun Christmas story. Kansas-based software developer Darren Cauthon was visiting a family member when he got to witness something truly special: a smart TV infected by ransomware.

What happened? The LG TV in question (a LG 50GA6400) was one of a few made during 2012 and 2013 that used the now-discontinued smart-TV platform Google TV (not to be confused with Android TV, which you’ll find on plenty of smart TVs still on the market). Someone in the household downloaded an app that promised free streaming movies — and who doesn’t like free streaming movies? — and got about halfway through the film before this screen popped up.

If you lean in close enough, you can see it’s a bunko warning from the FBI about watching illegally pirated content. It also says that the fine for watching a pirated copy of Suicide Squad is $500. (I’m just going to assume it was Suicide Squad that was somehow responsible, because it’s just that twisted.) The warning then offers an option for how to pay the fine and regain use of the TV.

Again, if you lean in very closely to the screen, you may notice that all this text is sideways. That’s because this bit of ransomware was likely designed for the Google Play store and meant to either run on a phone or tablet. Which means that even if you wanted to pony up the $500 (which, for a 2012-era LG TV is probably not worth it?), you actually can’t — there’s no way with the TV’s interface to actually pay the ransom.

Per Cauthon, the only real option for the TV owner is to pay a $340 service fee to LG to get them to do a factory reset and get rid of the malware. Considering it’s a 4-year-old television, and you can find very decent 55-inch screens for well under $300 nowadays, I’d say it may be time to take the L and just pony up for a new TV.

Stare in Wonder at This Smart TV Bricked by Ransomware