Mobiles under attack from ransomware, what you can do

It seems there’s no escape from the threat of cyber security scares, whether you’re on a computer or something else. Mobiles are now the battleground, and you’ll have to know a little more if you want to stay safe.

The security boffins at Kaspersky Lab have this week sent word that your mobile phone is now being targeted, with mobile malware growing at a severely fast rate in the past year, compared to 2014.

Kaspersky’s researchers found that malware specifically targeting mobile users rang in at almost 900,000 in 2015 compared to the nearly 300,000 in 2014, and that’s bad news for trends, suggesting 2016 will grow again.

According to the team, devices that were infected by these new types of security exploits often introduced apps that produced pop-up windows informing the mobile owner that they had committed illegal actions, and then locking the phone down before asking to pay a ransom.

This type of exploit is often called “ransomware”, and while it can happen on a computer too, now that we do so much on a mobile phone, is just as lucrative for cyber-criminals if not more so in a mobile environment.

Kaspersky has said it expects 2016 to see an increase not just in mobile malware, but also the complexity of the software being used to infiltrate phones, and that’s probably not a good thing for mobile owners across the board.

“As more and more people rely on their smartphones and tablets in their day to day lives, criminals are quickly realising the lucrative potential of malware on these devices,” said Kieran Cook, Sales Engineer for Kaspersky Lab in Australia and New Zealand.

“People have a growing reliance on their mobile devices for day to day living. A recent Kaspersky Lab survey found 88% of users store private information on their mobile devices, yet this information remains largely unsecured,” said Cook.

“The combination of these 2 factors means there are many people out there who risk losing significant amounts of data or precious memories if they were affected by mobile ransomware, making it a financially worthy target.”


Perhaps the most troublesome part of this rise in mobile malware activity comes from the specialisation of banking malware, which results not just in a possibility of mobile lockdown, but also from software that can steal money by imitating or intercepting information relating to a bank.

When you get down to it, money is often the main reason why security exploits are developed, with identity theft and ransomware all leading to financial gain for the criminal in some form or another.

Fortunately, not all phones can be broken into easily, with some more vulnerable than others, but Kaspersky is quick to point out that these hacks can be applied to both Android devices, as well as those made by Apple.

“While Android is the biggest target due to the fact its OS is more open that the iOS platform, iOS is not immune to malware,” said Cook, telling GadgetGuy that 2015 brought more malware apps for iOS than previous years.

“Attackers did not hack the App Store, but instead posted a malicious version of Apple’s Xcode, a free set of tools that developers use to create applications for iOS on the Internet,” he said.

So what can you do to stay on top of these problems? Well, they’re not going to reduce in number, so being aware of security issues is one way, but Cook points out that keeping security features up and running is one such way of making sure.

“Anyone who disables security features on their phone [is at risk],” said Cook. “For instance in Android you can ‘Allow installation of Applications from both Trusted and unknown sources’. This is not a default setting – so if you have enabled it, you will need to be extra cautious about what you’re installing, and where you are getting it from.”

That’s advice solely for Android users at this time, and aside for suggesting mobile internet security solutions — of which Kaspersky makes a product in — Cook also points out the necessity of backups.

“Take advantage of backup strategies built into your phone, like Apple iCloud, and Google Account so if you do need to do a factory reset, or complete reinstall, then you’ve got your data stored to easily restore to your phone,” he said.