A form of Android ransomware which threatens to send the victim’s private information and web history to all of their contacts has been discovered in the official Google Play app store.
Uncovered by researchers at McAfee, LeakerLocker doesn’t actually encrypt the victims’ files, but instead claims to have made a backup of data stored on the device and threatens to share it with all of the user’s phone and email contacts.
Those behind the malware demand $50 in exchange for not leaking personal data including photos, Facebook messages, web history, emails, location history and more, playing on fears of potential embarrassment rather than any form of cryptography.
Two applications in the Google Play Store contained the malware, Wallpapers Blur HD, which has been downloaded between 5,000 and 10,000 times, and Booster & Cleaner Pro, which has been downloaded between 1,000 and 5,000 times.
The combined number of downloads means that up to 15,000 people have fallen victim to this ransomware, which has been in the Google Play Store since at least April. Both apps have good review scores, suggesting that those behind the scheme have been giving them fake reviews.
Once downloaded, LeakerLocker asks for vast swathes of permissions, including the ability to manage calls, read and send messages, and have access to contacts — overreaching for the apps the malware is claiming to be — before communicating with a receiver, initiating the malicious activity and locking the homescreen of the device with the extortion threat.
It’s true that the malware can gain access to private information — thanks to its victims granting permissions at installation time — but not all the private data LeakerLocker claims to have access to can be seen or leaked.
However, analysis of the code shows it’s capable of at least accessing an email address, some contact information, Chrome browser history, text messages and calls, and photos from the camera.
Snippets of this data are chosen at random to convince the victim that all their data has been copied — although at this point the information hasn’t actually been copied, but it could happen if the control server issues relevant instructions.
This basic form of ransomware demands the ransom via credit card, although researchers advise infected victims not to pay because there’s is no guarantee that the information will be released or not used to blackmail victims again.
McAfee researchers have reported LeakerLocker to Google, which says it’s “investigating” — and it appears that the two apps including the malware have been removed from the Google Play store.
ZDNet has contacted Google for comment on LeakerLocker, but has yet to receive a reply at the time of publication.
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