Ransomware targeting mobile phones is an emerging trend internationally that is presently targeting the Android phone market, but likely to transition to other operating systems. Ransomware may infect a phone by following a spam link that downloads an application without your knowledge or by installing legitimate applications such as games that may have the program embedded within them.
Visiting certain websites, such as pornography or streaming services, may also trigger its installation. Once installed, the ransomware hijacks your device and locks it. At this point, it will demand payment to restore the device, often masquerading as national law enforcement to scare you.
Within Australia the virus may present itself as the AFP, State Police, or your state transport department, claiming you owe unpaid fines that you must pay to unlock your device. It may also accuse you of storing and viewing banned pornographic material that you must pay to have removed from your device. This form of the virus is known as the Police Virus, but it is important to note that authorities will never use screen lockers to collect fines from you.
It can be difficult to detect this form of ransomware since it is usually installed without your knowledge. It is not until the app locks the phone and demands a ransom that you may even be aware that there is a virus on your phone.
The answer is to detect suspicious URLs and apps prior to executing the malware. This can be achieved by ensuring your settings are set to ‘verify apps’ with the user prior to installation, and to avoid any suspicious links whose origins you aren’t sure of.
There are a few steps you can take to make sure that your phone stays virus free
If you have been infected with this virus, you can do the following to unlock your Android phone and minimise damage:
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