Johannesburg – Ransomware on mobile devices has trebled in the first quarter of 2017, according to data from Kaspersky Lab.
According to a report by the cyber-security firm, the amount of malicious software on mobile devices grew to 218 625 during the quarter. This is up 3.5 times from the previous quarter’s report of 61 832 files.
The US was hardest hit by ransomware during the quarter.
Ransomware locks a device or encrypts files, holding them ransom until a fee is paid to cybercriminals.
"Ransomware is the most serious malware threat of the 21st century, with criminals projected to extort billions from their victims in 2017," said Bernard Ford, CEO of cloud data protection company One Channel.
Ransomware WannaCry is one of the most recent cyberattacks to disrupt operations at large organisations. WannaCry infected an estimated 200 000 computers worldwide, Bloomberg reported. It gives victims 72 hours to pay $300 in bitcoin, or the data may be lost.
The report from Kaspersky Lab shows a hike in ransomware targeting all devices, systems and networks. Over 55 000 new modifications emerged during the quarter.
“The mobile threat landscape for ransomware was far from calm in the first quarter,” said Roman Unuchek, senior malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.
“People need to bear in mind that attackers can – and increasingly will - try to block access to their data not only on a PC but also on their mobile device,” he added.
Some ransomware works as blockers. The ransomware sets or resets a passcode for a device and if it acquires administrative rights it can install its own software which is almost impossible to remove, explained Kaspersky.
Other ransomware requests administrator rights, collects information from the device and uploads the data to a malicious server. The server in turn may send a command to block the device.
Kaspersky indicated that users should employ “robust security solutions” and update the software regularly to protect their devices and computers.
They should also run a system scan regularly to check for infections. Users should not enter personal information on websites they are unsure or suspicious about, and they should back up any valuable information.