Will Ransomware Cell Phone Attacks Reach the U.S.? (And what to do if you get infected)



cell phone attackTwo weeks ago they hit iPhone users in Australia and New Zealand. This week the reports came in that they’d hit Android users in Eastern Europe, specifically Ukraine. We’re watching, waiting to see if-and-when one of them will hit Western Europe and the U.S. — Oleg Pliss and his kin, Simplocker. They’re not people; they are a new round of cell phone viruses, and the difference is that they’re ransomware. Pay them money, or they threaten to hold your contacts, pictures, or even your whole cell phone hostage.

Sound familiar?

No, viruses for cell phones aren’t new. In fact, there’s a whole slew of mobile device virus protection software (Lookout, AVG, Avast, etc.). Trouble is, ransomware is notorious for getting around anti-virus protection.

Early reports indicate that, at least in the case of Ukraine’s Android virus, Simplocker, the level of encryption isn’t as complex as Cryptolocker. That doesn’t make it any less annoying, though. And according to some reports it does no good to try to pay Oleg’s ransom because the payment is linked to a PayPal account that doesn’t exist.

So, being a bit freaked out about this (even though my phone is a Windows platform, which hasn’t yet been affected), I asked my guys, the techs here at Everon, what I should do if my phone were hit by ransomware.

“The best thing you can do is to just wipe your phone,” Jeff Woods, one of our experienced L2s, said.

“And then reload all of your info from your backup,” Frank Lindsey, the L1 Supervisor added.

Um, okaaaay…? I felt like a kindergartener in college. Wipe my phone? And… is it automatically backed up? How do I do that if it’s not?

“Well,” Frank said, “if your cell phone is registered with us, at Everon, you could call and we can do a factory wipe for you. Or most cell phone providers can also do that, if you just call Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, or whomever.”

“Alternately,” James Schaffer, another of our L2s, said, “you could perform your own wipe in your phone’s settings.”

I checked my phone’s settings and couldn’t find where to do this. James told me to go to “Settings” -> “About,” and then click the button that says “Reset Your Phone.” (Of course, this only works if your phone isn’t locked by a virus.)

As far as doing backups, it turns out most phones do have automatic backup features. But iPhones, for instance, have to be plugged into your computer to perform their backups – something many iPhone users never do (they only charge the battery). And then there are the settings on the backup. If you’ve only told it to back up your contacts, you run the risk of losing any pictures you haven’t manually saved. (Or already posted to Facebook.)

There are programs you can use to do your auto-backups, too. Google Drive will automatically backup your mobile data. Dropbox, Picassa, Facebook, and Google+ are other sites that will also perform auto-backups on your data and/or photos if you adjust their settings correctly. (Ah, more settings. Good thing I have tech support here!)

So if your mobile data is all backed up, and you do get infected with something evil that needs last-resort measures, like ransomware, all you have to do is wipe and restore. (One site I found estimated this process would take no more than an hour.) Easy-peasy. If you’ve backed up your data.

Sometimes the best defense is just the ability to recover.


Cell Phone Theft: How to protect yourself



shady's blog post (1)In 2012, an estimated 1.6 million Americans had their smartphones stolen. The thefts were particularly common in larger cities. For example, about half of the robberies reported in San Francisco included smartphones [source: Consumer Reports]. About 40 percent of the reported robberies in every major metropolitan area, including Washington, D.C. and New York City, involve the theft of smartphones [source: Metropolitan Police Dept. DC]. One proposal to slow the escalation of these crimes is the installation of a “kill switch” on all phones, allowing the phone to be rendered useless if stolen. Phone carriers have refused to adopt this, however, and the courts have not been able to put this practice into law.

So what can you do to make sure that a thief cannot get away with your phone and information?

There are multiple applications on the market that allow for GPS tracking of your phone, remote wiping of all data, and even the ability to make an alarm sound on your phone if it’s lost — even if the sound is turned off. One company offering such an app is Lookout. They offer a free product for personal users that do all of this plus scan for malware, block malicious websites, and email you the last known location of your phone before the battery died. It is like Lo-Jack for your phone. The free version covers a couple of devices, but you can get the paid version which will allow for business use and installation of many devices, as well as backup of all your contacts and pictures. The business version provides a central management interface where you can locate any device and ensure that they are not infected, exposing your internal network to infections should they connect to wireless or VPN.

While being prepared for loss or theft is always a good idea, voicing your concern to enact a law to mandate a “kill switch” as a standard is the best theft prevention plan proposed to date. The only way currently to avoid theft is awareness of your surroundings, but you can take steps to ensure you are protected from infection, to backup your information, and to recover your device should it go missing.

Must Have Apps for the Android Platform, Part 1


As a Droid Power User since the first Motorola Droid came out, I have used hundreds of both good and terrible applications. Here is a list of killer must-have apps and why.


Here's a shot of the website

This app found my phone’s apx location within 1 minute of logging in to the website. In addition to being able to locate your missing phone, Lookout scans applications, and keeps your phone secure while also giving you the ability to back up contacts, pictures and more to their site.

Where's my droid Logo


Where’s My Droid lets you send a text message (specific “attention word” your choice) to your phone from anywhere and it will set the phone ringer to max volume and start ringing so you can find it. This is helpful if you dropped it outside, in a couch, left it at a friend’s and so on. It can also give you a basic location by sending the GPS attention words.

Google Maps  <- Click here to see all the newest features and ways to use it

Google Maps comes with the Android OS and the latest version is really cool. With this app and using the phones built in Voice command feature you’ll never be lost again and can even track the location of your kids after school if need be. You can also find restaurants, stores and so on along routes while navigating.

Google Nav Search on route feature

The Voice Recorder

The microphone on the droid is pretty powerful. The screenshots below allow the application’s usefulness speak for itself.  You can record your grocery list and schedule it to play later on as a reminder.  Just think, you could remind yourself to take out the trash when you get home at 6 pm?

Stay tuned for more apps that you must have for your Droid powered phone!