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Ransomware: Coming to a Mobile Device Near You

b2ap3_thumbnail_ransomware_for_your_phone_400.jpgRansomware, the unpleasant form of malware dedicated to denying users access to their own device, has become more prominent with mobile technology. While ransomware is typically associated with desktop computers, it’s fully capable of infecting mobile devices. Therefore, it should be no surprise that cases of mobile-based ransomware have increased nearly four-fold in the past year.


According to software security group Kaspersky Lab, their customers in Germany were victimized by mobile ransomware at the highest rate worldwide, followed by Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Furthermore, Kaspersky cited that it protected 35,412 mobile users from ransomware between April of 2014 and March of 2015. During the next year, that total surged upwards to a total of 136,532 users protected. Mind you, these totals aren’t factoring in the number of users who fell victim to their attacks, meaning the actual totals of mobile ransomware victims are likely much, much higher.

Much like the ransomware that attacks desktop and laptop systems, mobile ransomware infects the victim’s phone--however, rather than encrypting the data contained on the phone, which many users have backed up, ransomware on a mobile device will simply block access to apps and display a note explaining how to pay the demanded ransom.

What’s more, many of these mobile ransomwares fight dirty, even by their hacking standards. One particular ransomware originating in Ukraine locks the keys and replaces the home screen with a fraudulent FBI warning and a MoneyPak voucher code. The recipient of such ransomware is someone who (according to the warning) has broken the law by visiting illegal adult-themed websites. The ransomware shows screenshots from said websites included from the user’s browser history, and demands a $500 fine.

Besides the repulsive nature of the screenshots, the most terrifying thing is how indiscriminate these attacks are in selecting their victims. All one needs to do is click on the wrong link on their smartphone to be infected. This was proven in 2014, when a 12-year-old girl unintentionally installed some malware that locked her phone. The malware downloaded some very illegal videos and threatened to contact the FBI if she didn’t pay $500.

So, how can you defend yourself from mobile ransomware?

  • Update software on a regular basis: Malware and software updates are in a constant race to improve upon themselves, which means that outdated software simply won’t stand up to the more advanced malware. However, if regularly updated, your software stands a much better chance in fighting off an attack.
  • Utilize a cloud-based backup: While not the ideal circumstance, if your cell phone turns out to be beyond saving (without a complete and comprehensive wipe, at least) you will be very happy that your contacts and documents are safe in the cloud.
  • Avoid questionable downloads: Simply put, if you don’t trust the source of a download, don’t download it. Otherwise, you are inviting an attack into your phone.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to contact the authorities: For this, we return to the 12-year-old girl from before, who ultimately contacted her local authorities to report the malware incident. Even if there is illegal material on your phone, law enforcement members will be able to tell that it’s a plant from ransomware.

For more tips on how to avoid threats on all of your devices, contact us at 603-889-0800.

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