Our data is valuable; our secret that we hide within this data, are even more so. With that in mind, it should be no surprise that the dark web has featured in the past year some 5,000 Android ransomware kit listings, each selling for about $200.
According to security firm Carbon Black, Windows ransomware kits are still the most frequently seen on the dark web marketplaces, mostly because people hold larger troves of data on their PCs, rather than their smartphones that often have limited storage space. However, Android ransomware kits are becoming more and more frequent, which we’ve seen in the past few years with the many campaigns affecting users.
What’s more, the median price for these Android ransomware kits is 20 times higher than the median price for Windows ransomware kits which go for about $10. Some, experts point out, go as high as $850, such as the DoubleLocker ransomware for Androids. DoubleLocker was known to lock up the user’s data and change their pin so the phone was completely unusable until the ransom was paid.
The surge in popularity for such kits targeting Android devices isn’t that surprising, of course, given how there are some 2 billion such devices in the world, from smartphones to tablets, to televisions, and more. They make up about 85% of the smartphone market, so there’s little surprise that they are the most targeted. After all, it’s pretty much the same competition as it is between Windows and Mac PCs, with the word being that Macs are rarely targeted by hackers. Of course, one of the reasons was the fact that there are far fewer Macs in the wild.
There is also another fact that lowers the number of malware threats targeting iOS users – the consumer habits. Apple fans are more likely to buy a new device that comes with the latest iOS installed, or to update their phones with the latest security patches. The Android is unbelievably fragmented, with a wide number of manufacturers using this OS. Unless we’re talking about Google-made Pixel phones, the software updates will be slower to reach users and many users may very well delay doing so for a number of reasons.
One of these reasons is the fact that most people don’t really understand why it is important to install these patches and what they are good with, much less what vulnerabilities really are. Sure, tech-savy users are a whole different matter altogether, but for the most part, people are accustomed to simply using devices, and not what lies underneath and what makes them tick. Despite the cyber community’s best efforts to educate people about risks, it seems that most people simply choose to ignore bits of advice such as those regarding the need to patch a device, because they don’t believe it’s something they need on a daily basis.
There is also the fact that for Android there are unofficial app markets filled to the brim with infected apps. Every once in a while Google even spots infected apps in the official store, apps that have managed to fly under the radar of its security checks.
Most importantly, however, the ransomware market is growing because this is an easy way to make money for hackers. They buy these kits so they don’t even have to write the code themselves, push the malware and wait. Not all those affected will pay, but a few will. Enough that they’ll call a profit. You don’t really think you’ll pay to get your data back until you’re put in the position of not being able to access your photos, your contact list, your apps. Then, you start realizing that these individuals who encrypted all data on your phone could have very well made a copy of those files, and they may use that information against you even more. That’s why it’s important to learn how to protect your cyber secrets, and what those cyber secrets really are. It’s clear that you might not want everyone to know your private conversations, or of those pictures you’ve taken when alone, or maybe even your browsing history – certainly not that. It has become somewhat of a joke that when we die our dearest friends need to wipe our browsing history, but it’s just the desire we all feel to protect our secrets, those pieces of information that we don’t want everyone to know and that we hold on our phones.
That being said, keep in mind to always update your smartphone to the latest security patches, to update your apps and to not install just any app that you find online, especially one that’s not from the official app stores.