Ransomware Goes Mobile

The dominance of mobile devices has given hackers a growing market to chase after, with many of the same tools they’ve previously used to target personal computers—tools like ransomware.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that either locks you out of your device, and/or holds your data hostage, until you pay a ransom fee. There are a few variations of ransomware—from popup messages in your browser that take control of your screen to programs that encrypt your data and hold the key to decrypting it hostage—but it has largely been confined to personal computers until now.

A new type of mobile ransomware, named Android.Trojan.Koler.A (Koler for short), is making an unwelcomed appearance and targeting Android users. Believed to be the work of the gang responsible for the Revetol / Icepol Trojan, Koler goes after mobile users viewing pornography on their Android devices. It tries to scare its victims into paying the $300 ransom by claiming the victim has viewed “illegal pornography” and posts a warning message from a bogus law enforcement agency (the agency in question changes depending on which country you’re in).

While this type of ransomware sounds scary and can certainly spread beyond its targeted demographic, there are a few things going against Koler. For one, Koler can’t be found and unwittingly downloaded from an app store (and hopefully never will be), which cuts the risk factor of infection down significantly. The malicious software, or malware, also needs to be purposefully installed by the user. That means that it has to trick a user into downloading the malware onto their device, usually done by prompting them to download a “premium video player” or other extra feature. Additionally, Koler can actually be easily removed—the key is to remain calm and not fall for the ploy.

Most likely, Koler in its current form probably won’t be responsible for locking you out of your mobile devices. However, it will most likely serve as a prototype for more advanced mobile ransomware variations in the future. As more people come to depend on their mobile devices, more hackers will be attracted to exploit other people’s property. With these risks in mind, it’s important to practice good security on all of your devices—no matter what sites you look at.

  • Be careful where you browse. There is a lot of nastiness on the Internet, so knowing what sites put you most at risk is crucial to staying safe. As I’ve mentioned before, it isn’t just pornographic sites (or nasty apps) you have to worry about, as dangerous content, more often than not, masquerades as something far more innocuous.
  • Don’t download apps from third parties. Downloading unapproved apps on your mobile device will always be risky business. Third-party apps aren’t in major app stores for a reason—most likely because they’re either unsecure or malicious. If you absolutely have to download from a third-party, make sure to do some research on the app in question beforehand.
  • Install security software on all mobile devices. Malicious websites and apps are not going away. So, today, security that helps protect your privacy and identity is a must. That means installing security software on all of your devices. Some software, like McAfee® Mobile Security, is free for both Android and iOS.

The Android version of McAfee Mobile Security provides a comprehensive safeguard against dangerous apps before they can harm your device or personal data. It includes McAfee® SiteAdvisor®, which shows a warning message if you navigate to a potentially dangerous website, or click on a malicious link in a text, email, QR code or social networking post.

Finally, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following @McAfeeConsumer on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.



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Guard Your Personal Data and Devices with the Latest in Mobile Security

Advances in mobile technology are taking the way we exercise, shop, and communicate to the next level. However, such progress comes with a price as with each advance that is made, an equal number of scams and potential attacks come in their wake. Mobile users need to be vigilant about the safeties set around their personal information and devices.

Taking precautions when visiting unfamiliar sites, downloading new apps, and using public Wi-Fi networks is crucial, but not everything can be avoided by being careful. Sometimes bad things just get through. That’s why using security software in tandem with good mobile habits is the best way to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and device thieves.

With the old and new risks associated with mobile devices in mind, it’s imperative that security offerings exist to help stem the tide. I am excited to announce that the latest offering of McAfee® Mobile Security for Android is available for download with a host of new and improved features. Most importantly, instant privacy and security scans are now free and provide users with important insight into the behavior of apps installed on their devices. Users will be able to see how much information each app accesses, as well as its privacy sharing score, which is determined based on behavior specific to each app category. Any suspicious apps can be easily and quickly uninstalled with one-click.

The most recent McAfee Mobile Security Report found that many popular mobile apps are snooping on their users, including tracking location data and other personal details, as well as oversharing and even installing malware. Our researchers found that 82% of the Android apps reviewed tracked mobile activities, with 80% of those actually collecting location information. Of the privacy-invading apps collecting user information, 35% of the most aggressive offenders were also malicious, and found to contain Trojans and spyware. Apps that read a user’s subscriber ID (which is linked to names and other data that can expose your identity), track precise GPS data, and access text messages are especially dangerous when it comes to personal privacy.

Our McAfee Mobile Security app empowers users to know exactly what information their apps are accessing and, in turn, better safeguard their digital identity. In AV Test’s 2014 effectiveness test for mobile security products, the app received a 100% detection score for the second time in a row. McAfee Mobile Security offers comprehensive security and anti-theft features for both iOS and Android for free. The Android version also includes advanced Wi-Fi safeguards, privacy protection, call and SMS blocking and so much more.

Key features include: 

  • Improved Privacy Scan for Android. The latest version of McAfee Mobile Security instantly scans Android apps, files, SD cards and Internet downloads for suspicious activity without draining resources or battery life.
  • Frictionless First-Time User Experience for Android. For first time McAfee Mobile Security app users, the new seamless start up process allows users a one-tap activation, providing an instant and seamless security and privacy scan.  Registration is optional and limited to those features that absolutely require it.
  • Remote Scream Feature for iOS. With the new iOS release, users can use the scream feature to remotely locate their lost or stolen device from the portal.

Download McAfee Mobile Security on your Android and iOS devices today to get the benefits of our all-inclusive mobile security solution. Find it in the Google Play or Apple App Store for free.

For the latest updates on consumer threats and mobile security, follow us on Twitter at @McAfeeConsumer and on Facebook and tell us what you think!


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What is a Man-in-the-Middle Attack?

There’s a reason why most people feel uncomfortable about the idea of someone eavesdropping on them—the eavesdropper could possibly overhear sensitive or private information. This is exactly the risk that computer users face with a common threat called a “Man-in-the-Middle” (MITM) attack, where an attacker uses technological tools, such as malware, to intercept the information you send to a website, or even via your email.

Just imagine you are entering login and financial details on an online banking site, and because the attacker is eavesdropping, they can gain access to your information and use it to access your account, or even steal your identity.

There are a variety of ways that attackers can insert themselves in the middle of your online communications. One common form of this attack involves cybercriminals distributing malware that gives them access to a user’s web browser and the information being sent to various websites.

Another type of MITM attack involves a device that most of us have in our homes today: an wireless router. The attacker could exploit vulnerabilities in the router’s security setup to intercept information being sent through it, or they could set up a malicious router in a public place, such as a café or hotel.

Either way, MITM attacks pose a serious threat to your online security because they give the attacker the ability to receive and request personal information posing as a trusted party (such as a website that you regularly use).

Here are some tips to protect you from a Man-in-the-Middle attack, and improve your overall online security:

  • Ensure the websites you use offer strong encryption, which scrambles your messages while in transit to prevent eavesdropping. Look for “httpS:” at the beginning of the web address instead of just “http:” which indicates that the site is using encryption.
  • Change the default password on your home Wi-Fi connection so it’s harder for someone to access.
  • Don’t access personal information when using public Wi-Fi networks, which may, or may not, be secure.
  • Be wary of any request for your personal information, even if it’s coming from a trusted party.
  • Protect all of your computers and mobile devices with comprehensive security software, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service to protect you from malware and other Internet threats.


RobertSicilianoRobert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

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Perception vs. Reality: Facebook Anonymous Login Feature

Perception plays a huge role in many aspects of daily life. However, the reality of something is often not as powerful as the idea may have been—and advertisers as well as brands more often than not take full advantage of this fact. Privacy in the online world has become a precious, if not priceless, commodity, but sometimes the perception of privacy can be just as valuable.

Facebook recently announced at their f8 conference that they would be debuting an “anonymous login” feature to help users protect their privacy when logging into other sites with their Facebook account. This new sign-in option will serve as a complement to the existing “log in with Facebook” button available on many popular third-party apps and services. It allows you to login using your Facebook credentials, without sharing your information or activity with the third-party site or app.

In tandem with their recent “privacy checkup” campaign, this new anonymous login option is another way to improve the company’s image in the face of increased scrutiny around information collection and privacy policies. Facebook has received a lot of attention when it comes to the amount of information they collect and store on the platform’s 1.3 billion plus users, who willingly and (sometimes unknowingly) share a considerable amount of valuable data about themselves. While the anonymous login feature is certainly a step in the right direction, it many not actually be as anonymous as it seems.

Opting for the anonymous login option when signing into your favorite mobile app does keep your information and activities hidden—but only from the third-party, not Facebook. The anonymity of this new feature only works on the sites and apps a user is logging into—Facebook can still see and record everything you do during that time on the app or site. When logging into apps via Facebook, it is also important to remember that Facebook gets information about your location data too.

The privacy benefits of the anonymous login may be a mixed bag when it comes to perception and reality. When a user signs in with the anonymous login, the number of parties involved is reduced, but it also means that Facebook will be the only one with access to the valuable information about said user. As more sites incorporate this anonymous feature, it will mean that companies will have to go through Facebook to get access to user data instead of mining it themselves.

The situation is not as sinister as it may seem, but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down when using social media on mobile devices. The promise of anonymity doesn’t always line up with the reality, which is why it is crucial to take an active approach to protecting your own privacy online. Keeping the amount of data you make available for collection to a minimum by using anonymous features like the one from Facebook is a good way to start, but it certainly shouldn’t be the only method utilized. Aside from how you log into various apps, being aware of how much, and what, you share via social networks is key.

Below are some important safety tips to keep in mind when surfing the web or using social networks via your smartphone or tablet:

  • Wrangle how much you share by managing your privacy settings. Make sure that you are only sharing information with friends and family, as well as only the information you want to have shared via your device. For instance, if you don’t want people to know where you are at all times, make sure to turn off location tracking. Check settings regularly in the event there are any changes.
  • Disable auto-logins on mobile apps. While it may be convenient to not have to enter your username and password, avoid setting your apps to automatically log in—and save yourself some worry about what might happen should your phone fall into the wrong hands.
  • Keep the information your reveal online or via social media apps to a minimum. The Internet is forever and once you put something out there, whether it’s a Facebook post, tweet or comment, it will live online indefinitely. Additionally, be wary of other users or companies asking for personal information online and never share your home address, phone number, or other personal identifying information via these channels.
  • Beware of what third-party apps have access to. Aside from using features like the anonymous login from Facebook, it is important to monitor what and how much apps can access. Frequently check app permissions on your mobile device to make sure they can’t get ahold of more information than they need.
  • Create separate online accounts. Logging in with your Facebook account or Gmail address may be convenient, but it also puts your privacy at risk by allowing sites to collect information on you and your behavior. When possible, create a separate account when signing up for new sites or apps.
  • Take the extra step with comprehensive mobile security. A company’s promise that their app is secure, or sign-in is anonymous, is not always enough. McAfee® Mobile Security, free for both iOS and Android devices, provides backup and recovery for contacts on both versions. Additionally, Android users are warned when apps ask for more access than they really need.

For the latest updates on consumer threats and mobile security, follow us on Twitter at @McAfeeConsumer and on Facebook and tell us what you think!


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What is a Backdoor Threat?

Did you accidentally leave the back door open? This thought can be scary because you know that leaving the back door open at home could allow someone to enter your home and take your personal belongings.

The same is true for a backdoor in the computer world. It is a vulnerability that gives an attacker unauthorized access to a system by bypassing normal security mechanisms. This threat works in the background, hiding itself from the user, and it’s very difficult to detect and remove.

Cybercriminals commonly use malware to install backdoors, giving them remote administrative access to a system. Once an attacker has access to a system through a backdoor, they can potentially modify files, steal personal information, install unwanted software, and even take control of the entire computer.

These kinds of attacks represent a serious risk to users of both computers and mobile devices since an attacker can potentially gain access to your personal files, as well as sensitive financial and identity information.

Say, for instance, an attacker uses a backdoor to install keylogging software on your computer, allowing them to see everything that you type, including passwords. And once this information is in the hands of the cybercriminals, your accounts could be compromised, opening the door to identity theft.

Here are a few tips to protect you from back door threats:

  • Use comprehensive security software on your computers and mobile devices, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service, to protect you from malware.
  • Never click on an email attachment or a link sent from people you don’t know and watch what you download from the web.
  • Be careful about which sites you visit, since less secure sites could contain a so-called “drive-by download”  which is able to install malware on your computer simply by visiting a compromised web page. You can check the safety of a website before you visit it by using our free McAfee® SiteAdvisor® tool, which tells you if a site is safe or not right in your search window.
  • Only install programs that you really need, minimizing your exposure to potential vulnerabilities.

Make sure you don’t leave any back doors open. Stay safe online!


RobertSicilianoRobert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

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