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May 7th, 2014

Fake government ransomware holding Android devices hostage

Ransomware, which has already made its rounds on Windows, is now increasingly targeting the Android operating system. A new piece of mobile malware claiming to be the government under the name Android: Koler-A is now targeting users.

We have full control of your phone – give us $300 and we’ll give it back

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The ransomware is pushed automatically from fake porn sites visited by Android users via a malicious .apk file that appears in the form of an app. The innocent appearance of the app deceives users and is a powerful social engineering tactic used by malware developers to trick people into installing malicious apps. The form of delivery is not the only thing that makes the app suspicious and potentially dangerous, but the access it seeks are highly unusual and alarming. The ransomware requests full network access, permission to run at startup and permission to prevent the phone from sleeping. Once installed the granted access allows the ransomware to take control of the device. The full network access allows the malicious app to communicate over the web and download the ransom message that is shown on the captive device. The permission to run at startup and prevent the phone from sleeping fully lockdown the phone, preventing victims from escaping the ransom message.

The ransomware localizes fake government messages, depending on the users GPS location, accusing them of having viewed and downloaded inappropriate and illegal content. What does the ransomware do next? Demands ransom of course! The ransom to regain access to the device including all of its apps, which it claims are all encrypted, is set at around $300 and is to be paid through untraceable forms of payment such as MoneyPak.

avast! Mobile Security safeguards against ransomware

Both AVAST’s free and premium mobile security apps, avast! Mobile Security and avast! Mobile Premium, protect customers from falling for the devious apps containing ransomware. AVAST detects this ransomware under the name Android: Koler-A and blocks its execution.

We recommend that everyone be cautious when downloading apps, especially from unofficial app markets. We also urge users to not open any files that have been downloaded to their device without their consent. Always check what apps want to access and in addition to being cautious, we advise people download antivirus to protect their devices. This new ransomware appearing on Android is the perfect example of how malware is starting to move away from the PC environment and into our pockets and there are no signs of this slowing down.

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