Worried about the nasties on Android? Now add Ransomware to the mix

Ransomware. It’s a scary thought. It can come through on your computer and scare the heck out of you. Here in the UK a council has been hit by it 13 times in just one year. Meanwhile, in the US, the University of Calgary has just paid $20,000 to have their data restored – and they paid that to the people behind the attack. The attack took over their files and settings, scrambling them until a ransom is paid.

Worried about the nasties on Android? Now add Ransomware to the mix

It’s part of the reason that I moved away from a PC. The anti-virus, the updates, the checks, the constant worrying about anything and everything you download. I had an up-to-date anti-virus app and I kept doing the Windows updates, but it was a constant battle. With ransomware, if you’re unlucky enough to get infected with it, you’ll see a message purporting to be from a law enforcement agency after perhaps accepting a misleading prompt to download an update, fix or plugin.

Now though, we’ve got a similar thing happening on Android devices. The exploit is called “Cyber Police” and, although it’s been around for a bit, it can now infect your device in a new way. The result is a device which is seemingly locked out until you pay that “ransom” and sometimes even paying that won’t get you any data back.

The “Cyber Police” attack can pop up on your device and states that you’ve supposedly browsed some illegal content..

Worried about the nasties on Android? Now add Ransomware to the mix

As you can see, there’s even a countdown timer to push you into making a decision quickly. Sometimes it’ll state that the ransom needs to be paid in iTunes vouchers or similar. Worst of all, this sort of infection doesn’t always appear on your Android if you’ve just been side-loading apps with the security settings tuned down. No. Now we’re seeing infections like this appearing after a pop-up on a website which then prompts you to download something.

For those who are familiar with Android and know what’s fake and what isn’t, this can be ignored and uninstalled if you dig around enough, but for those who are less technically aware, it can be a stressful situation. Older versions of Android seem to be the most susceptible, and you can usually remove the whole thing by doing a factory reset. Trouble is, cheaper handsets – those bought by those who might not be technically skilled – are more likely to be running older versions of Android too.

Whilst upgrading your device is the best way around it, this isn’t always possible with all devices. Educating those who use older versions of Android , installing an Android security solution, backing up data and avoiding websites from the “darker areas” of the internet are definitely wise steps. By “darker areas” I mean those slightly “dodgy” websites with oodles of pop-ups, promises of free paid-for apps and serial codes etc. Best avoid.

Also, and this is something that we’d recommend to all new or inexperienced users, only ever install apps from Google Play or other recognised app stores. Try to avoid dropping your out-of-the-box Android settings down. Check what you’re installing and how it’s installing it. Make sure that only the apps you’ve chosen to install are installed – don’t just click on links randomly.