The internet purports to offer the cover of anonymity for embarrassing vices, but that is not always the case, as the number of people whose reputation has been ruined by the Ashley Madison hacks have learned. Now there is a new class of online/cellphone virus called ransomware.
This often preys on the user’s fear of being exposed. For example, in a recent case, a porn app takes your picture, take over your device, and blocks your phone, supposedly on the grounds of your using child pornography. It demands $500 to unfreeze your phone and make it all go away. Thus blackmail and extortion enter the information age.
A malicious Android app that held people to ransom has been found by US security firm Zscaler.
Adult Player appeared to offer pornography, but secretly took pictures of users with the phone’s front-facing camera.
It then locked the user’s device and displayed a demand for $500 (£330) which was difficult to bypass.
One security expert told the BBC that ransomware was a lucrative and growing area of cybercrime.
Apps which demand money from people with a threat to release private information, or wipe a device, are known as ransomware.
In August, Intel Security said examples of ransomware had increased 127% since 2014 – primarily affecting desktop computers and laptops.