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The top security threats to smartphones – Part 3




In this post, we continue our series on the top threats to Smartphones in 2018, with a brand-new kind of cyber threat:  Ransomware.

In this cyber-attack, cyber attackers want to hold your Smartphone hostage until you literally pay a ransom payment. This kind of attack is known as Ransomware which is described as a type of malware that prevents or limits a user’s access to their computer system, either by locking the system’s screen or by locking the user’s files unless a ransom is paid.

Three types of Ransomware attacks exist with varying levels of severity:

  • Scareware:

As the name implies, this kind of attack is merely designed to scare or frighten you.  These kinds of attacks primarily make use of annoying pop-up messages. One of the most common of these messages claims that some sort of malware has been detected on your computer; and in order to get rid of it, you have to pay a small ransom.  You will know if you have been targeted by this kind of Ransomware attack if these pop-up messages constantly appear. The only way to get rid of this attack is to install anti-malware software, such as the ones available from Norton and Kaspersky.

  • Screen Lockers:

Severity level increases with this type of Ransomware attack.  With this attack, your computer screen locks up; and as a result, you are completely denied access to your files and folders. To make matters even worse, a message will appear that typically has an FBI, Secret Service, or Department of Justice official seal, to make it look like you have been caught doing some sort of illicit activity online. In order to unfreeze your screen, there will also be a message stating that you have to pay a rather hefty fine; but keep in mind that these government agencies would never ask you to pay up. The best way to get your screen unlocked is to take it to a local Geek Squad to rid your computer of the Ransomware.  If this doesn’t work, you may then have to get a new computer all together.

  • Encrypting Ransomware:

These are deemed to be the worst kind of attack. In these particular instances, the cyber attacker will steal your files and encrypt them with a very complex mathematical algorithm, which is very difficult to crack.  In order to get your files back, the cyber attacker will demand a large amount of money to be paid by Bitcoin. Once they get this money, they claim that they will send you the decryption key in order to not only retrieve your files, but also unscramble them into a decipherable state (in other words, making them like they were previous to the hijacking).  Most often, this never happens because once you pay up the cyber attacker disappears. Since you have paid with a virtual currency, there is no way of tracking the attacker either (unlike paper currency, where you can use marked bills for these purposes).

A future blog post will examine the various ways in which you can protect your Smartphone and other wireless devices from these attacks.

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