Android ransomware attacks up 300 percent

Android ransomware attacks up 300 percent
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The number of Android users attacked by ransomware is up by nearly 300 percent in the past year, according to a report released Wednesday.

Kaspersky Labs said the number of phones hit by ransomware jumped from 35,413 in 2014 to 136,532 in 2015.

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Ransomware, malware that prevents a device from working properly until users pay a ransom, is becoming one of the most common cyber crimes. The total number and year-over-year growth rate of the attacks are even higher for PCs.

The report also notes that only four families of ransomware — Small, Fusob, Pletor and Svpeng — account for 90 percent of the Android attacks.

The growing number of attacks is also drawing attention on Capitol Hill. 

On Tuesday, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Will Hurd (R-Texas) asked the Department of Health and Human Services to issue new guidance to healthcare providers on how to handle ransomware attacks. They want more stringent reporting requirements for attacks on hospitals and other providers. 

Ransomware is gaining popularity because of its broad economy of scale. Malware can be spread to thousands of potential victims with little effort through sources like online pornography.

The diffuse target base makes it much harder to stop than an attack on a single source. And the rise of digital currencies like bitcoin makes it harder to track payments.

It's also easier for attackers with little technical know-how to get started because of the availability of readymade ransomware or do-it-yourself kits to help design such malware.

The report also notes another key reason for ransomware's popularity: “Why is ransomware skyrocketing? First and foremost, because users pay.”