Trojan app encrypts files on Android devices and asks for ransom

It's the first Android ransomware threat with file-encrypting abilities, researchers from ESET said

The ransomware model is increasingly being adopted by cybercriminals who target mobile users, one of their latest creations being able to encrypt files stored on the SD memory cards of Android devices.

A new threat dubbed Android/Simplock.A was identified by researchers from antivirus firm ESET over the weekend and while it's not the first ransomware program for Android, it is the first one seen by the company that holds files hostage by encrypting them.

Other Android ransomware apps seen in the past, like Android Defender, found in June 2013, and Android.Koler, discovered in May, primarily used lockscreen techniques and persistent alerts to disrupt the normal operation of infected devices.

"Android/Simplocker.A will scan the SD card for files with any of the following image, document or video extensions: jpeg, jpg, png, bmp, gif, pdf, doc, docx, txt, avi, mkv, 3gp, mp4 and encrypt them using AES [the Advanced Encryption Standard]," the ESET researchers said Wednesday in a blog post.

The malware will then display a ransom message in Russian asking for a payment of 260 Ukrainian Hryvnia (around US$21.40) to be made through a service called MoneXy, suggesting that, at least for now, this threat targets users in Russian-speaking countries.

Using encryption to hold files hostage is a technique made popular among malware writers by Cryptolocker, a Windows ransomware program that infected more than 250,000 computers during the last three months of 2013. The FBI and law enforcement agencies in other countries seized the command-and-control servers used by Cryptolocker as part of a recent operation that also disrupted the Gameover Zeus botnet.

"Our analysis of the Android/Simplock.A sample revealed that we are most likely dealing with a proof-of-concept or a work in progress -- for example, the implementation of the encryption doesn't come close to 'the infamous Cryptolocker' on Windows," the ESET researchers wrote.

The new threat masquerades as an application called "Sex xionix," but it wasn't found on Google Play and its distribution so far is most likely low.

Another interesting aspect of Simplock.A is that it uses a .onion command-and-control (C&C) domain address. The .onion pseudo-top-level domain is only used inside the Tor anonymity network for accessing so-called hidden services.

One installed on a device, the ransomware app sends device identifiable information like the unique International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number back to the C&C server and waits to receive a command to decrypt the files -- most likely after the payment has been confirmed.

"While the malware does contain functionality to decrypt the files, we strongly recommend against paying up -- not only because that will only motivate other malware authors to continue these kinds of filthy operations, but also because there is no guarantee that the crook will keep their part of the deal and actually decrypt them," the ESET researchers wrote.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securitymobile securityencryptionscamsesetdata protectionmalwarefraud

More about AdvancedAdvanced Encryption StandardAES EnvironmentalFBIGoogle

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lucian Constantin

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