A new variant of mobile ransomware that encrypts the content of Android smartphones is putting a new spin on both how it communicates with its masters and how it spurs its victims into action. The updated version of Simplocker masquerades on app stores and download pages as a legitimate application, and uses an open instant messaging protocol to connect to command and control servers.
The malware requests administrative permissions to sink its hooks deep into Android. Once it's installed, it announces itself to some victims by telling them it was planted by the NSA—and to get their files back, they'll have to pay a "fine."
Ofer Caspi of Check Point's malware research team wrote in a report posted this week that the team has "evidence that users have already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their files "unencrypted" by this new variant. He estimates that the number of infected devices so far is in the tens of thousands, but may be much higher. Because the software can't easily be removed once it is installed, and because the files it encrypts can't be recovered without it, victims have no choice but to either pay $500 to get their files decrypted or to wipe the device and start from scratch.