Fake AV and ransomware: Coming soon to an Android device near you

Symantec has uncovered a new Android threat you might recognize from PC malware--fake antivirus and ransom ware attacks.

Android Defender fake antivirus

Android Defender fake antivirus

A message on your smartphone or tablet warning that your device is infected with malware is cause for concern. If you've never installed the type of antimalware app that would produce that type of warning in the first place, it should be an even bigger red flag.

Fake antivirus and ransomware attacks--a staple of PC-based malware in recent years--are making their way to mobile platforms. Fake AV displays a false malware detection in an effort to con you into paying for software to remove the infection, while ransomware locks up your system (or mobile device) and prevents you from using it at all until the ransom is paid.

Android is the primary target of mobile malware, and fake AV is no exception. Symantec has detected a new threat, which it has dubbed Android.Fakedefender. According to Symantec, this particular threat has elements of both fake AV and ransomware attacks. The alert is designed to look like a malware scan has detected an infection, but it also locks the Android device and prevents you from doing anything else until you pay the fee to download the "protection" app.

Once the malicious app is installed, the real fun begins. The malware has compatibility issues with many Android devices, and attempts to prevent other apps from being launched. It alters the settings of the Android OS itself, and in some cases requires a hard reset to restore normal functionality.

I've never understood why or how fake AV attacks succeed. If you don't have any security software installed, it should be obvious that the malware alert itself is the threat. How can you get a warning about a malware infection if you haven't installed any tool capable to detecting and warning you about a malware infection?

If you have installed security software, then you should have a clue about how that software works and what the alerts looks like. Even if the fake AV alert is designed to look identical to the alerts from your security software, no legitimate software developer would ask for more money to block or remove a threat.

The best way to avoid malicious apps is to stick to mainstream apps from trusted sources such as the Google Play store. Android is open and allows you to download and install apps from virtually anywhere, but those apps might not be vetted and often can't be trusted. For additional protection, you can install an antimalware app on your Android device. McAfee AntiVirus & Security and Symantec's Norton Mobile Security are two of the most well known.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags consumer electronicssymantecsecuritymobile securitysmartphonesAndroidmalwarebusiness security

More about GoogleMcAfee AustraliaNortonSymantec

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Tony Bradley

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place