Mobile Ransomware

Computers have been the main target of ransomware attacks, accounting for a vast majority of them. However, as the use of mobile devices in the office has increased, ransomware has changed its target and is now mostly targeting smartphones and tablets.

Cybercriminals employ ransomware attacks as unlawful money-making tactics with sufficient certainty. Attackers threaten to restrict device privileges if the ransom amount is not paid within the specified term.

Mobile Ransomware

Malware that targets mobile gadgets is referred to as mobile ransomware. A cybercriminal utilizes mobile ransomware to freeze a smartphone or forge sensitive information. It then requests ransom to release or decrypt the data to the owner.

Numerous assaults, including Worm.Koler, ScarePakage, Android.Locker.38.Cryptolocker, Black Rose Lucy, and others have previously affected many systems.

Although most mobile ransomware attacks target people, organizations are also at risk due to the expansion of BYOD initiatives at the corporate level. Substantial penalties for sensitive data loss may result from doing otherwise.

How Does Mobile Ransomware Function?

Mobile ransomware employs a variety of methods to prevent a target from using the gadget, including:

The Exploitation Of Android Devices

MalLocker.B, a complex ransomware variant that first surfaced in late 2020, completely avoids encrypting files or a user’s data. Rather, it alters the onUserLeaveHint() function and uses a prioritized call notice to trigger the extortion letter. The target cannot disregard the ransom note as that callback is triggered whenever they hit the Home key or shut off an application.

Steal User Privileges 

Certain android viruses, like ransomware and banking trojans, exploit the SYSTEM ALERT WINDOW privilege, allowing an app to display overall existing mobile programs. The contents are not encrypted, but the ransom note display will keep appearing, and the device will be locked.

Device PIN Alteration

DoubleLocker, a 2017 invention that encrypts files in a phone’s memory repository employing AES encryption, also modifies the phone’s PIN code to restrict access to the device. The ransomware tool with the cleverly titled Lockerpin employed a similar approach in 2015, and CovidLock utilized a more modern version in 2020.


An Android ransomware variant from 2017, LeakerLocker, intended to reveal details when a target fails to pay the ransom. It locked the target android’s display and gathered information from it, besides call history, Chrome browsing history, SMS or text messages, and photographs. It could not locate any code in the malicious application that might have allowed it to transfer the collected information to a server.

Experts suggest this malware was a fraud. However, ransomware continues to employ extortion as a potent tactic.

Reasons For Employing A Mobile Ransomware Attack

A hacker would be interested in targeting a mobile device for a plethora of reasons, including:

Stealing Contacts

Names, phone numbers, addresses, and other sensitive data may be accessible to threat actors who get control of a victim’s contact list. When a hacker acquires a victim’s contact list access, it can send text messages to other devices and users with spoofed malware using their login information and contacts.


The smishing technique incorporates the words phishing and SMS messaging. A hacker uses it to deliver malicious links and files through SMS, perhaps after hacking into a target’s contact list.

Banking Details And Credentials

Threat actors frequently target specific mobile phone users to exploit mobile apps by accessing their bank accounts.

People with corporate credit card access or those managing bank accounts may also be the primary victims in major organizations.

Hence, employing an email continuity solution that allows mobile email management may be beneficial. Even if email servers are inaccessible, customers may view email without interruption from their mobile devices through an email continuity solution.

Mobile Ransomware Examples

iPhone Ransomware Attacks 

Several Apple users in Australia and the UK discovered their iPhones were unexpectedly frozen in May 2014. The cost of regaining accessibility was $100.

Russian officials found the two juvenile hackers responsible for the Moscow incident. Through phishing techniques, they tricked users into entering their Apple IDs or credentials by pretending to be an online video provider.

After possessing the mobile phones, they used the “find my phone” function to freeze all the targets’ impacted phones remotely.

Android Ransomware Attacks

Within only 30 days, the notorious ScarePackage ransomware outbreak affected approximately 900,000 Android users.

The ransomware was installed on the targets’ phones after they installed what seemed to be an antivirus program that might inspect their phones. When finished, users get a notification in a certain form, convicting them of serious crimes like sharing illegal files or delivering bulk spam emails. The FBI has allegedly locked the victim’s mobile device, and the sole method to free it is ransom payment, per the ransomware notification.

Android users have been the target of various common ransomware assaults since 2013, and the trend is continuing as the malware is increasingly complex and constantly evolving.

Protection Against Mobile Ransomware Attack

Here are some recommendations for ransomware protection for smartphones.

Beware Of Advanced Threats

Ransomware is constantly evolving and modifying. There is a history of various ransomware being used by hackers. Threat actors disseminated the WannaCry ransomware in 2017 using the EternalBlue exploit kit and transmitting the Petya malware using the same exploit kit. Understanding the evolution of the ransomware environment is crucial. The more straightforward and quicker it is to discover a solution, the more we understand how these ransomware attacks are conducted.

Update And Implement The Best Security Patches

Drive-by downloads can lead to a smartphone being infected with ransomware. It is brought on by unintentionally browsing compromised websites. Ransomware that hides on a reputable site may drive users to such compromised websites. Assuring that mobile apps and operating systems are updated is substantial protection. The latest security patches further protect against a possible ransomware invasion.

Avoid Fake Apps Download

A notorious source of malware is fake apps. Ensure an application is downloaded from the App Store or Google Play Store before installing it. Third-party app stores could be malicious.

File Backup

Maintaining file backup is a smart option. It might be useful when a mobile device is taken hostage and when a user misplaces or breaks it.

Robust Mobile Security Solution

Maintaining all mobile devices secured with a comprehensive security solution is strongly advised. Various mobile security solutions offer online privacy protection, including an App Advisor service that verifies secure Android apps.

BYOD Security Policy Enforcement

The existence of a BYOD policy is insufficient. Large organizations must put it into practice. Employees won’t otherwise regard the organization seriously. They will keep breaking the restrictions designed to protect them and their gadgets.


The mobile ransomware targets android phones as well as Apple iPhones. It can transmit to other network elements and infiltrate the whole business.

Various mobile ransomware defense solutions allow sensitive data protection and data loss prevention to secure organizational data. Through such security solutions, large organizations and individuals can employ cutting-edge protection services against ransomware attacks, OS exploits, phishing, Man-in-the-Middle attacks, etc. A ransomware protection service also allows maximum real-time visibility into threats. Hence, providing knowledge of the effect of several mobile ransomware.

Derik Belair

As President and CEO, Derik leads the vision, strategy and growth of Augmentt. Prior to founding Augmentt, Derik was the Vice President at SolarWinds, leading the digital marketing strategy for SolarWinds’ Cloud division. Derik has been working in the channel for over 20 years, starting his career as a channel sales rep at Corel Corp. and eventually becoming the first employee at N-able Technologies in April of 2000.
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