Mobile Devices

June 24, 2013

Symantec Warns of Malware Holding Android Devices Hostage

It was suggested recently by security firm F-Secure that the focus of malware may now be shifting to mobile as cyber criminals continue to try and target the largest amount of people possible. This stemmed from the discovery of a malware operation that would actually completely ignore PCs in favor of infecting Android devices.

Now Symantec has reported on its official blog that FakeAV software has begun to appear on Android devices as well.

FakeAV software is a scam that uses malware to misrepresent the security status of a computer or device. Te goal is to convince users to purchase the "full version" of the software to eliminate viruses or malware that isn't present. This type of malware first popped up on PCs a few years ago and has since become quite common.

Unfortunately, this type of software has made its way into the mobile market, specifically onto Android devices. One known variant of FakeAV on Android is called Android.Fakedefender, which locks up a device just like Ransomware, another type of malware that effectively takes a computer hostage by denying access to files or programs until a payment is made.

The experience with Android.Fakedefender seems to vary depending on what version of Android your device is running, but the result is typically that most users won't be able to uninstall the app as it prevents other apps from launching. This malware will even go so far as to change core operating system settings, making a factory data reset ineffective.

Fortunately, compatibility issues may prevent this malware from running properly on some devices, at which point a simple uninstall will get rid of it.

However, Symantec expects more malware to appear on Android in the future and so suggests taking preventive measures. In other words, it might be crucial for many users to install a security app such as Norton Mobile Security or Symantec Mobile Security. Furthermore, users should only install apps from trusted sources.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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