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IT Insight: Beware of mobile ransomware

Ransomware is one of the fastest growing cybercrimes in history. Did you know that mobile infections of ransomware have quadrupled in the last year?

Cybercriminals use mobile malware to access and steal sensitive data from a smartphone and can even lock a device demanding payment to return the data or to unlock the device. Often, victims accidentally download mobile ransomware through social networking schemes while downloading innocent content or critical software.

Once the malware is downloaded onto a device, the cybercriminal will often message the victim demanding “ransom” before encrypting your files and locking the phone. Once the payment is processed, often via Bitcoin, the ransomware will send a code to unlock the phone or decrypt the data … hopefully.

Last year 10,000 victims were infected with the Cryptolocker malware, demanding $300 from each infected user to “unlock” their device. Another malware that infected Android devices was Doublelocker. Counterfeit apps were downloaded by many from compromised websites. Then, malware changed the affected device’s PIN and encrypted its primary storage files, renaming them. The ransom was demanded to decrypt them.

In the case of Koler ransomware, the infection begins when a user visits what appears to be an adult-themed website and is instructed to download an app to view the content. Once downloaded, the malware asks the user to install the app, giving the cybercriminal administrator access to the device. The attacked then sends a message that appears to be from the FBI, that instructs the victim to pay a fee for viewing the content.

Ransomware is real and is constantly evolving. Let’s explore three ways you can prevent a ransomware infection on your mobile device.

1. Use trusted websites: It is important to visit only trusted sites on your mobile device and stay away from questionable websites; many of these questionable websites can infect you without you even knowing it.

2. Only download apps from a trusted source: Apps are a great way to add functionality to your device, but attackers often hide their code inside seemingly harmless software. Before downloading any new app, ensure it is from a trusted source and has a good number of positive ratings.

3. Be careful with attachments: Many of today’s attacks are spread through email attachments. For this reason, inspect the attachment name and file type for anything that looks suspicious and avoid opening unexpected attachments before speaking with the person who sent them.

Though we would all like to think that “it won’t happen to me,” technology attacks are affecting the daily lives of millions. By taking a few simple steps, you can significantly increase your chances of staying safe and not being a victim. If you would like to make sure your mobile devices, computers, and networks are safe, reach out to your managed service provider.

JoAnn Hodgdon is vice president and co-founder of Portsmouth Computer Group (PCGiT) with her husband David. For 25 years, PCGiT has provided comprehensive managed IT services, business continuity, security, cloud computing and strategic vCIO services to their clients. You may reach her at joann@pcgit.com or through www.pcgit.com.