Malware holds Android devices for ransom

Symantec has observed what it believes is the first ransomware threat targeting mobile devices.  The security expert warns that a new threat of FakeAV is making its way onto Android devices.  

Screenshot of FakeAV Android app

Screenshot of FakeAV Android app

In its official blog, Symantec explains that the FakeAV software is a type of scam using malware that intentionally misrepresents the security status of a computer and attempts to convince the user to purchase a full version of the software in order to remediate non-existing infections.

Messages continue to pop up on the desktop until the payment is made or until the malware is removed. This type of fraud, which typically targets computers, began several years ago and has now become a household name.

The scam has evolved over time and Symantec is now seeing FakeAV threats making their way onto Android devices. One interesting variant Symantec has come across, detected by Symantec as Android.Fakedefender, locks up the device just like Ransomware. Ransomware is another well-known type of malware that takes a computer hostage, by denying the user access to their files for example, until a payment/ransom is handed over.

Once the malicious app has been installed, user experience varies as the app has compatibility issues with various devices. However, many users will not have the capability to uninstall the malicious app as the malware will attempt to prevent other apps from being launched.

The threat will also change the settings of the operating system. In some cases users may not even be able to perform a factory data reset on the device and will be forced to do a hard reset which involves performing specific key combinations and/or connecting the device to a computer in order to perform a reset using software provided by the manufacturer. If they are lucky, some users may be able to perform a simple uninstall due to the fact that the app may crash when executed because of compatibility issues.

“We may soon see FakeAV on the Android platform increase to become a serious issue just like it did on computers. These threats may be difficult to get rid of once installed, so the key to staying protected against them is preventing them from getting on to your device in the first place. We recommend installing a security app,” says Symantec.

Malicious apps can be avoided by downloading and installing a security app from trusted sources.

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