Apps have quickly become a favorite element for mobile device users. They allow users to easily access social networks, news, games, even shopping networks. Users become so accustomed and dependent on apps that it might not occur to them that these apps can be a source of distress.
Certain users became fully aware of just how distressing an app can be when they downloaded “Adult Player.” This app lured consumers with the promise of provocative photos, but once the app was opened the user found themselves as the subject of a photo, rather than the viewer. Using the phone’s front-facing camera, the app secretly took a picture of the owner and then locked the device. Afterwards, the mobile device displayed a demand for $500 to unlock it. It was the picture perfect crime and a prime example of ransomware.
Ransomware occurs when a device or app demands money from people with the threat of releasing private information, or wiping the device. In the August McAfee Labs Threat Report, we discussed how examples of ransomware have increased 127% since 2014. Although most cases affect desktop computers and laptops, the high volume of mobile traffic is incenting hackers to apply their ransomware tactics to mobile devices.
The increase is not unsurprising either, since ransomware is one of the more lucrative methods of cybercrime and can target large numbers of mobile devices. In fact, there have been reports of groups making upwards of $75,000 in 10 weeks.
A tactic most used to obtain money from victims is to prey on human emotions. “Apps like this rely on the embarrassment factor. If you don’t pay, your reputation is on the line,” said Raj Samani, CTO, EMEA, Intel Security.
This isn’t the first time ransomware criminals have focused on mobile device users, and it certainly won’t be the last. “Ransomware is more prevalent on computers than phones, but this could be the start of a trend,” continued Samani. Most users can protect devices by utilizing a mixture of best practices and security software.
- Back up your data right, and do it often. Some ransomware scams threaten to delete your photos and videos and the best way to avoid losing your data is to back it up on an external hard drive. Then, if you fall victim to a cyber criminal, you can wipe your system and start over.
- Only download apps from a reliable source. Individuals who downloaded the “Adult Player” app found it on a website, not the Google Play or Apple App store. When an app isn’t approved by the proper store, it’s a red herring for malware.
- Download security software to protect your mobile device. McAfee® Mobile Securityis free for Android and can help protect your device from bad apps and ransomware.