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Friday, May 23, 2014

How To Fix Smartphones Infected With Ransomware

Posted: 6:43 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How To Fix Smartphones Infected With Ransomware




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By Clark Howard

Android smartphones are the target of an ugly fast moving scam working its way around the country that could cost you $300.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer  reports there are viruses being loaded on your smartphone that will hold you for ransom. It's similar to what we went through with computers and laptops last year.

With the ransomware of the past, a virus was loaded on your computer and it shut down your computer. Then you have to buy it back from the crooks. Though it's not worth paying the ransom, according to the techies, because they leave too many things behind on your computer that continue to track you. Your computer essentially becomes a doorstop.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports the thing with the smartphones is not as dire in its impact on you, but it is punitive for your wallet.

Here's the m.o. of how this works: You're on the phone and there's a clickthrough to a video. The video is infected with a virus that shuts your phone down. A pop-up says your phone is in lock down and you have to pay $300 to have it unlocked.

"Infected phones display a message from the 'U.S.A. Cyber Crime Center' and 'FBI Department of Defense,'" the newspaper reports. "The message contains several bogus government seals and a picture of a stern-looking President Obama."

Fortunately, there is a process to unlock it yourself and remove the virus. The key to fixing it yourself involves getting into safe mode in one of the following ways:

Method 1

(Reported to work on Google devices and various Android Open Source Project, or AOSP, derivatives like CyanogenMod.)

  • Press and hold the power button as you would to power down or reboot.
  • A menu will pop up.
  • Tap and hold the "Power off" option.
  • If nothing happens try the same with "Reboot".
A dialog should appear offering you to reboot in Safe Mode. 

Method 2

(Reported to work on Samsung Galaxy S4.)
  • Power down.
  • Turn on and repeatedly tap the soft-button for "Menu."
Method 3
(Reported to work on Samsung Galaxy S3 and others)
  • Power down.
  • Turn on, then press and hold Volume Down (Galaxy S3 and others), Volume Up (HTC One and others), or Volume Down and Volume Up together (various Motorola devices) when the vendor's logo appears.

There are further step-by-step instructions, along with screenshots, on Naked Security to assist you.

As a general rule, you should never click on any pop up ads or suspicious links in unsolicited emails. In addition, be sure your Android smartphone is set so apps can only come through the Google Play store.

Finally, if you're looking for mobile security, try a freemium service called MyLookout.com that offers protection for smartphones running Android, Blackberry, or Windows. It's a detection app that will scan and protect your smartphone from viruses. It will also help locate your phone if it's lost, and shut it down and erase it if it falls into the wrong hands.

Don't forget antivirus on your computer at home too.  Check out my list of free options for virus, spyware, and malware protection.

And remember, no matter what, do not pay that ransom!
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