Ransomware: Cause for Alarm for Android Phone Users 0 776

  • Lock-screen Ransomware and file-encrypting “crypto-ransomware”, have been causing major financial and data losses for many years, and now it's on the Android platform.
  • In Kenya, ransomware offers a unique and differentiated threat. One out of every ten global mobile money transactions occur in Kenya.
  • Individuals without any protected handsets could be adversely compromised as the human layer of M-PESA’s networking environment is essentially vulnerable.
Ransomware Android Phone

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a growing problem for users of mobile devices. Lock-screen types and file-encrypting “crypto-ransomware”, both of which have been causing major financial and data losses for many years, have made their way to the Android platform.

ESET has prepared a topical white paper on the growth of this insidious Android malware.

Like other types of Android malware – SMS trojans, for example – ransomware threats have been evolving over the past few years and malware writers have been adopting many of the same techniques that have proven to be effective in regular desktop malware.

Both on Windows and on Android, lock-screens have prompts to scare the victims into paying up after (falsely) accusing them of harvesting illegal content on their devices.

Likewise, as with the infamous Windows Crypto locker ransomware family, crypto-ransomware on Android started using strong cryptography, which meant that affected users had no practical way of regaining the hijacked files.

Notably, everyday data (such as photos and texts) is at an elevated risk as this data is stored on phones rather than PCs.

The Woes of Wangari

A good hypothetical example would be Wangari, who when downloading Instagram on her handset accidentally downloaded a malicious masked application disguised to look like the official Instagram app.

The payload for that application may have been amended to have lock-screen ransomware which denies Wangari access to her phone’s interface, and consequently her M-Pesa account.

How much do you think Wangari would pay the hijackers to access her M-Pesa account?

In Kenya, ransomware offers a unique and differentiated threat. One out of every ten global mobile money transactions occur in Kenya. Essentially, a successful ransomware attack in Kenya could lead to a user being deprived access to their mobile money accounts.

Although the M-PESA system has been deemed robust, individuals without any protected handsets could be adversely compromised as the human layer of M-PESA’s networking environment is essentially vulnerable.

Types of Android Ransomware

According to Robert Lipovsky and Lukas Stefanko from ESET Research, ransomware, as the name suggests, is any type of malware that demands a sum of money from the infected user while promising to “release” a hijacked resource in exchange.

There exist two broad categories of malware that can be termed as ransomware.

  1. Lock-screen ransomware
  2. Crypto-ransomware

The difference of these types of ransomware is that: in lock-screen types of ransomware, the hijacked resource is access to the compromised system while in file-encrypting “crypto-ransomware” that hijacked resource is the user’s files.

Since ransomware first reared its ugly head when the Windows Operating System was widely adopted, it was only logical that the malware writers would similarly adopt ransomware to compromise mobile phones as they are ubiquitous in the modern day.

With consumers switching more and more from PCs to mobile, more and more valuable data are being stored on these devices that devices, which leads to the fact that more and more valuable data is being stored on those devices that all of us carry around, Android ransomware is becoming ever more worthwhile for attackers.

How to Keep Safe

1. Avoiding Unofficial App Stores:

Among the most important active measures to take are avoiding unofficial app stores and having a mobile security app installed and kept up to date.

2. Back up your Data:

In the event of a successful ransomware attack, having a back-up for all your important data enables you to retrieve vital information, such as sentimental photos and vital business information. Having a backup turns such an experience into nothing more than a nuisance.

According to ESET Research, there exist several options for removal if one is successfully infected.

3. Invest in Mobile Security:

Mobile Security includes malware protection, which can protect users from ransomware through scanning infected applications and quarantining them prior to infection of the given device.

We obviously recommend ESET Mobile Security, available at https://www.eset.com/afr/

What to do when infected

1. Boot the device into Safe Mode:

For most simple lock-screen ransomware families, booting the device into Safe Mode – so third-party applications (including the malware) will not load – will do the trick and the user can easily uninstall the malicious application.

The steps for booting into Safe Mode can vary on different device models. (Consult your manual, or ask Google – the search engine.) If the application has been granted Device Administrator privileges, these must first be revoked from the settings menu before the app can be uninstalled.

2. Use an MDM solution:

If ransomware with Device Administrator rights has locked the device using Android’s built-in PIN or password screen lock functionality, the situation gets more complicated. It should be possible to reset the lock using Google’s Android Device Manager or an alternate MDM solution.

Rooted Android phones have even more options. A factory reset, which will delete all data on the device, can be used as the last resort in case no MDM solutions are available.

3.      Contact your Security Provider’s Technical Support:

If files on the device have been encrypted by crypto-ransomware such as Android/Simplocker, we advise users to contact their security provider’s technical support. Depending on the specific ransomware variant, decrypting the files may or may not be possible.


In the event of a ransomware attack, never pay cybercriminals. In certain cases, ESET researchers have discussed ransomware devoid of the code necessary to decrypt malware upon payment. This essentially means that paying cybercriminals does not mean decryption of your data.

Kenyans need to be made aware of the looming ransomware threat which could significantly impact their access to essential mobile services such as M-Pesa. The largest mobile digital economy has a target on its back. We need to remain vigilant.

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Fake cryptocurreny trading apps 0 952

How do fake cryptocurrency trading apps operate?

How to protect yourself?

If you’re a Poloniex user and have installed any of these malicious apps on your device, start by uninstalling them. Make sure to change both your Poloniex and Gmail passwords and consider enabling 2-factor-authentication authentication for both services.

Here’s what you can do to avoid falling victim to fraudsters in the future:

  • Be certain that the service you are using definitely has their own mobile app – if so, the app should be linked on their official website and it would be safest to follow this link
  • Make sure to actually read app ratings and reviews, other users may have reported issues or warnings
  • Be cautious of third party apps triggering alerts and windows appearing to be connected to Google – misusing users’ trust towards Google is a popular trick among cybercriminals
  • Use 2 Factor Authentication for an additional layer of security
  • Use a reliable mobile security solution; ESET products detect these credential stealers as Android/FakeApp.GV


Malware alert for Android phone users 0 518

Malware alert for Android

Internet security company ESET East Africa has issued an alert to mobile phone users running on the Android platfom to be wary of alternative app stores’ potential to spread malware such as screen locking malware.

According to Teddy Njoroge, Kenya Country Manager for ESET, ransomware is a fast growing problem for users of mobile devices.  “Just like SMS trojans, ransomware threats have evolved over the past few years with hackers  adopting techniques that have proven effective in regular desktop malware to develop lock-screen types and file-encrypting ransomware. These have been causing major financial and data losses for years and which have now made their way to the Android platform“, he said.

The alert comes after Cyber-crime researchers at ESET discovered that www.CepKutusu.com, a Turkish alternative Android app store was spreading malware under the guise of all the offered Android apps on the site

When users browsed the Turkish alternative app store CepKutusu.com and proceeded to downloading an app, the “Download now” button led to banking malware detected as Android/Spy.Banker.IE instead of the desired app.

After ESET researchers turned to the store’s operator with the discovery of the attack, the store ceased the malicious activity. ESET Android malware researcher, Lukas Stefanko said this was an entrirely new tactic by cybercrimnals.

“This is the first time I’ve seen an entire Android market infected like that. Within the Windows ecosystem and in browsers, this technique is known to have been used for some time but in the Android ecosystem, it’s really a new attack vector“, he said.

Athough the misdirection on www.CepKutusu.com was from a legitimate app to the malicious banking malware, the crooks behind the campaign added an exception, a tactic commonly used to increase the chances of staying longer under the radar.

The hackers introduced a seven-day window of not serving malware after a malicious download, thus falsely serving the user with clean download links, only to be redirected to the malware once they try to download any application from the store after the period lapses.

Although focused in Turkey and parts of Europe, the incident points to the growing appetite for mobile malware by hackers using masking tactics to hoodwink users and which could soon become the biggest cybersecurity problem yet.

To protect yourself, Njoroge advises that you should always download apps from official app stores and also practice caution when downloading any content from the internet. Always pay attention to anything suspicious in file name, size and extension.

Lastly is to use a reliable mobile security solution to protect you from the latest threats.