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Bizarre Android malware disrupts bizarre Japanese girl-band election

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:26PM EST

Symantec recently discovered what it’s calling “bizarre malware” that has been created to infect Android phones of fans who are voting in Japan’s premier annual girl-band election. Wait, what? Here’s the lowdown: there is a super-popular girl band in Japan called AKB48 that is made up of a rotating lineup of 64 — yes, 64 — different members. Every year, fans of the group vote for their favorite band members in a “general election.”  The winners of the election then go on to record a single together that will be released in celebration of girl-band democracy.

So what’s this about malware, then? Symantec says that the malware is a Trojan that has been embedded in a popular AKB48 Android app. Once the app has been installed, it will systematically destroy all pictures and images contained on the device and replace them with a picture of a creepy baby with a large widow’s peak.

Interestingly, Symantec says that the app was actually kicked off of the Google Play store before it had even been infected with the Trojan virus. Rather, the Trojan was added to a pirated version of the program and then put up on third-party websites for download. So, the lesson here: People need to be careful when they download apps to vote for their favorite Japanese girl-group members. Or something.

And for those curious as to exactly how the group selects new members, here is an explanation from Wikipedia: “Given the large number of members in the group, AKB48 uses various selection methods to determine the member lineup who will participate in the recording of a single. Each year, one single’s member lineup is determined by fans who vote for their favorite members in so-called “general elections”, and one is decided in a rock-paper-scissors tournament between the members themselves.”

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.


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