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.
Detecting mobile phone ransomware
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.
Preventing mobile phone ransomware
There are a few steps you can take to make sure that your phone stays virus free
- Install reputable antivirus and malware programs on your phones and run scans regularly.
- Avoid sites with questionable reputations and be aware of what you are purchasing/installing on the app stores.
- Read app reviews where available before you download the app and take note of complaints.
- Backup your phone data to a cloud service or another device so recovery may be possible.
- Regularly update your mobile phone’s software.
- Check your phone’s security settings are set to disallow third party application installations from unknown sources.
Responding to mobile phone ransomware
If you have been infected with this virus, you can do the following to unlock your Android phone and minimise damage:
- Boot your phone in Safe Mode by holding down the power button, then long-pressing the ‘Power Off’ option. (This varies with devices so check your phone manual if you are unsure).
- When the device reboots, you should see a ‘Safe Mode’ watermark. Go to your device settings menu and access your apps manager, and uninstall the rogue app. This should remove it from your system, and you can reboot your phone out of safe mode. N.B.: This may not work for all instances of infection.
- For iOS (Apple) users contact your local Apple service provider.
- If you have concerns about your personal information contact IDCARE.
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