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Mobile ransomware mushrooms
July 20, 2016, 12:32 pm

The number of mobile ransomware victims across the globe has increased fourfold compared to a year ago suggests a security report released last week. While this growth is less than that seen for PC ransomware, it nevertheless confirms a worrying growing trend.

Several factors have been identified as contributing to the growth of ransomware. Many people are willing to pay ransomware because they believe paying the extortionist is more cost-effective than losing the valuable data stored on their digital devices. Another reason is the law enforcement has not kept up with the rapidly evolving tactics of digital extortionists. Moreover, new digital payment tools have made it easier and safer for extortionist to collect ransoms, without coming under the radar of law enforcement authorities.

Collecting money from victims always has been problematic for online criminals. Reacting to the rise in fraudulent payments, many legitimate payment systems have started to track and block suspicious transactions, making legitimate money transfers a risky business for cyber-crooks.

Other crooks have tried to use underground or semi-legal payment systems with equally unsatisfactory results, as the privacy and a security on these systems cannot be assured.

However, with the rise of crypto-currencies, such as Bitcoin, the payment landscape changed. The anonymity and distributed nature of crypto-currencies over other type of e-currency meant that information highwaymen had for the first time a dependable way to obtain ill-gotten gains.

Unlike personal computer ransomware attacks, which encrypt all the data on a phone, including your files and backup, leaving everything garbled before demanding a ransom payment, most mobile ransomware attacks result in just a locking of the screen that disenables you from accessing your phone, unless you pay a ransom. However, if a mobile user has a backup of the phone's data or is not concerned about preserving the data on it, then the ransomware can be defeated by doing a hard reset of the phone.

Being smart is the first step in using a smartphone and avoiding ransomware attacks. For starters, download apps only from Google, Apple or other reliable sources. Other measures include applying patches to apps as soon as upgrades are available and using commonsense when giving permissions to an app. For instance, if you download a health app and it asks permission to access your contact list, then that should immediately raise a red flag.

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