back to article Programmer finds way to liberate ransomware'd Google Smart TVs

Television production factory LG has saved Darren Cauthon's new year by providing hidden reset instructions to liberate his Google TV from ransomware. The company initially demanded more money than the idiot box was worth to repair the TV and relented offering instructions for resetting the telly after Cauthon took to Twitter …

I'm pretty sure they'd have had to manually circumvent protections in place to acheive this, e.g Androids 'Allow installation from untrusted sources'. This wasn't something they downloaded from the Google Play store... they've likely tried sideloading something on the TV, the punter isn't 100% innocent in this fiasco....

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Anonymous Coward

Does this apply to computers as well?

How come people LOVE computers to be as open as possible, but want their TVs to be closed?

The story here is someone was dumb enough to install malware on the TV. Essentially the LG repair fee they were trying to charge should have been thought of as a fine for being dim.

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How come people LOVE computers to be as open as possible, but want their TVs to be closed?

Because a computer is a general purpose tool and a TV is not, it is merely meant to show TV channels (and streaming services). Next question.

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Windows

>How come people LOVE computers to be as open as possible, but want their TVs to be closed?

I don't want it to be closed, that is the whole point, it is closed, therefore unreliable. If it were easy to flash custom rom onto a TV (I have not even looked) I would probably try ... something like DD-WRT for TV's would be nice ... if I can control what runs on the TV, I would be happy to enable smart functionality, since I cannot, I will not.

I know most of you are very happy with closed source-"security through obscurity"-software ... I am not.

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Unhappy

"as appliancey as possible"

These days that means apps.

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My TV is a screen , nothing more

Mine is just a screen. Thats all I want it to do. I would have liked it to look after producing sounds , but the shitty speakers it came with mean thats out of the window and had to be outsourced to an old pc speaker setup.

Thats not to say my system isnt smart , it has a little win7 PC plugged into it , that cost naff all. This in one fell swoop makes the PC a million times "smarter" than any of the big expensive ones.

I just dont see the point of adding apps like youtube onto a telly menus. Thats what computers are for!

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nothing is for free

Not even the air we breathe?! :OMG:

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i like the idea of a DD-WRT for TVs ....

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Anonymous Coward

Wouldn't it be funny if LG got to the bottom of what really happened, and then sued HIM for corporate defamation....

I would like to see this personally, so people might think before they go off and pretend something is what it isn't. I wonder where The Register stand for reporting this, are they legally untouchable???

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Anonymous Coward

Re: i like the idea of a DD-WRT for TVs ...

You and many other techy types (maybe even me).

However. the content providers (MPAA and friends, probably including pay providers like Netflix etc) have big pockets and big lawyers and will ensure it can't ever happen.

Related: Starting shortly before Christmas and still ongoing, my local daily rag (Birmingham Meaning Evil/Evening Mail, afaik owned by Trinity Mirror Group) has had loads of questionable coverage of Kodi (more specifically if yolu dig far enough, it is coverage of questionable Kodi add-ons). Very odd.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm, not an LG employee per chance?

"Wouldn't it be funny if LG got to the bottom of what really happened, and then sued HIM for corporate defamation...."

They can try suing him if they can prove it didn't happen but the reality is that the cost and bad publicity involved would cost them a million times any payout they might get.

LG have been caught with their fingers in the cookie jar before and will continue to pay for their mistakes until long after they actually stop being dicks. Not fair you might say but they had the choice not to abuse their customers and opted to go b*lls deep

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I bought my TV partially because it had the smart TV OS I wanted (Android TV), I don't just want a screen. If I can get set top box and screen in one I save space and money. No I don't have a cable box or anything else like that.

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..nothing is for free

Linux, FreeBSD, various browsers, youtube (with various tools), the air you breath, a walk in the local park or along the beach or along your local street, catching a lift with me when I am going in the same general direction at the same general time... To name a very tiny few.

Lots of things are free.

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"walk in the local park" - paid for out of taxes.

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Coat

I wonder where The Register stand for reporting this, are they legally untouchable???

I just got back from taking a gander at some local court proceedings. A local journo is up before the beak on charges relating to all the crime he's reported on over the last few years.

But there was lots of legal wrangling, he's also facing extradition to the US and, frankly, they want him on more serious charges. Seems when he was in school he wrote a paper on the Kennedy assassination, so now they want him for that. Poor guy. Just 28 years old and facing the rest of his life in a US prison.

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Headmaster

"walk in the local park" - paid for out of taxes.

1) Not everybody pays tax.

2) I live near park land (scrub/bush land) that has nothing done to it ever. There are no ongoing costs whatsoever for anyone. Like anyone I can walk there for free.

3) By some definitions beaches and river beds are parks. They generally use natural processes to maintain themselves, so cost nothing

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Coat

can't wait for the follow up IoT story...

Someone's ransomware'd my lightbulbs, thermostat, directional vibrating jeans (a CES 2017 exhibitor claims these will help with "navigation").

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Re: can't wait for the follow up IoT story...

This is over 20 years old so you'll have to substitute "usenet" for "facebook"/"bittorrent" and "VCR" for "DVR", but other than that the joke premise still holds water:

The (Future) Diary of a Mad Digital Homeowner

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Re: can't wait for the follow up IoT story...

Thanks for hte diary link. Long time since I last read that.

Reminds me a bit of Edgar from an old cheesy film from the 80's>...

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I'll stick to...

dumb. If I want smart I can add a PC to it easily and be done with that.

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Unhappy

Re: I'll stick to...

First you need to find a company that still sells 'dumb' TVs...

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Anonymous Coward

"I'll stick to... dumb."

Agree! But its getting harder to find non-smart TV's.

LG is one of the few TV makers that still offer them...

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Re: I'll stick to...

You can get a pretty powerful little Android 4k box for 40 quid, set the interface the way you prefer, and have virtually zero risk to your shiny expensive "display." Furthermore, some even come with a pin insert factory reset. These boxes use very little power.

Since most come rooted I might suggest making a new Google account specifically for your TV boxes to alleviate privacy concerns.

Now we're "smart"

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Re: I'll stick to...

My 40" Blaupunkt I got in the black friday sales is dumb, and the piece of junk can't even display a 24hz hdmi signal properly, it's like looking at 24fps shown on a 60hz refresh. And that's not the worst of it, when it does go into 24hz the resolution is buggered too - the horizontal pixels get merged together so you're looking at a 960x1080 image...

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Boffin

Re: I'll stick to...

>Blaupunkt

Is a name, that is all ... you get a TV mass produced, pay the owners of the Blaupunkt brand some money and are allowed to put a Blaupunkt sticker onto them ... it is that simple ... like Polaroid ... slightly more expensive than the noname, exact same parts, same specs etc. You pay $1 or $2 more for the "brand" ... to make you feel good.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'll stick to...

"Smart" gadgets are for those too stupid to use normal gadgets.

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Re: I'll stick to...

"Since most come rooted I might suggest making a new Google account specifically for your TV boxes to alleviate privacy concerns."

I'll stick to the MythTV box. No Google account needed.

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MJI
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Re: I'll stick to...

Seen those and wondered, now I know why they are so cheap.

I paid a lot for top end picture processing, good upscaling and good build quality.

Oh and mine runs a form of Linux and the network is not plugged into it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'll stick to...

> First you need to find a company that still sells 'dumb' TVs...

A monitor?

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Re: I'll stick to...

@ Why Me?

I disagree, "smart" items are only of any use to smart people, the stupid really shouldn't be allowed near them. Of course, smart people try to avoid "smart" devices as far as they can.

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I have a smart TV too, but it isn't plugged in to the LAN, which it seems, makes it smarter...

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Can be connected to the LAN and still be SMART

My kitchen Panasonic was connected to my LAN for accessing a NAS drive via Twonky, but wasn't connected to the 'net.

Still maintain there's more to security than the box makers, the individual trying to get something for nothing needs a good kicking too. I get asked frequently from work about this sort of thing, so if it's in the public mindset, how come the associated risks aren't? Seems that some folks are the cause of their own demise

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Re: Can be connected to the LAN and still be SMART

"so if it's in the public mindset, how come the associated risks aren't?"

It's in the public mindset because the manufacturers advertise "smart". Do you really think they're going to advertise "that means it can be pwned"?

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Mushroom

disaster

Around 6 years ago I was involved in a nightmare because of a Philip's inability to support their hardware.

The mother in law with dementia had a Philips TV. When installed HDMI was connected to TV. TV defaulted to HDMI when powered on. Sky remote handled everything.

On her 8oth birthday a group of middle aged men egged on each other to disconect the unused video and DVD players. When powered up the TV now defaulted to a different input. Disaster. Mother in law could only use Sky remote - had no clue about button sequences and switches and spent 15 hours a day in front of the TV, which was now unusable for her. Reading manual, spending hours on phone to Philip's tech support and hours scanning the internet and trying different key sequences still unable to get the TV to revert to original pattern. After 4 days I managed to find a different key sequence that worked on the internet and the world again resorted to normal.

Must be a better way to give control to users.

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FAIL

Re: disaster

Or you could've just plugged the cables back in they way they were. Doh!!

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Never had this sort of trouble with my old Grundig. Replacing the tubes was a bit of a bother sometimes, though.

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Anonymous Coward

I've with you on that, I download films and transfer them to vhs before I watch them.

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I also transfer to vhs as a step on the route to cellulose acetate.

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Recovery mode for a TV

That alone says that LG are doing it wrong.

And then there's the spy telly incident.

Unfortunately Samsung and Vizio are just as bad.

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Big Brother

Re: Recovery mode for a TV

Everything spies on us these days, the Prisoner is more relevant today that it was in 1967.

Be seeing you.

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Which keys again?

So is it channel down or volume down? The guy reads "channel down" and then says "volume down" when he goes to the TV.

I don't have one of these, but I SO HATE IT WHEN THE INTERNET DOES THIS!

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Coat

With the TV powered off,

How is anything going to happen while the TV is powered off? Stand-by is probably the mode we are looking for.

Also:

"With the TV powered off,

open a window and firmly shove the apparatus outwards to see how smart it is in dealing with gravity and impact on the pavement.

FTFY

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TWB

Re: With the TV powered off,

Upvote for this:

"How is anything going to happen while the TV is powered off? Stand-by is probably the mode we are looking for."

Like you, I wish people would use the correct terminology - "powered off" to me me means "without any power applied, connected etc"

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Get off my lawn!

"Like you, I wish people would use the correct terminology - 'powered off' to me me means 'without any power applied, connected etc'"

Some of us oldtimers remember when the on/off switch/button physically disconnected the device from power-- and we write/speak accordingly.

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Re: Get off my lawn!

Effin' A to that. The younguns have no idea what "powered off" means these days. I had to unplug my previous Media Box when not in use - powering it down had no influence on its temperature, clearly indicating that it was still functioning full tilt.

Since common sense has gone the way of the dodo, there should be a law : powered OFF means NO CURRENT APPLIED.

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Re: Get off my lawn!

My windows 10 work pc has an item on the srat menu called power \ shut down , and when i click it the pc appears to switch off .

I'm not sure though i think its just pretending , in order to show off how quick it can "boot" up.

pstools say its been awake for weeks!

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Unhappy

Re: Get off my lawn!

Since common sense has gone the way of the dodo, there should be a law : powered OFF means NO CURRENT APPLIED.

Agreed. Will put it on the list right below 'fibre broadband'.

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Re: Get off my lawn!

Quote: "My windows 10 work pc has an item on the srat menu called power \ shut down , and when i click it the pc appears to switch off .

I'm not sure though i think its just pretending , in order to show off how quick it can "boot" up.

pstools say its been awake for weeks!"

Win 10 shut down is some form of hybrid hibernate. It shuts down apps, but as far as I know the OS itself is basically hibernated. It only gets a real full shutdown, when re-booting after updates etc.

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Re: Get off my lawn!

"powered OFF means NO CURRENT APPLIED"

Not so long ago the politicians here in UK were getting concerned about the standby power consumption of appliances, that it was destroying the environment, and legislation was clearly necessary. The obvious cheap solution for a manufacturer is to change the label on the 'Standby' switch to 'Off', thus sidestepping legal limits on standby power. (I considered using the joke icon here, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was true in some cases).

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