Ransomware Nightmare

How Easy Is It to Create Android Malware?

This article is to demonstrate a high-level process malicious threat actors use to create malware specifically for the Android platform. This article is to help readers understand the dangers of Android ransomware and is intended for educational purposes only. 

Table of Contents

Ransomware is a Nightmare!

Ransomware is a Nightmare! For anyone who has been a victim of mobile device ransomware, you know that this is a true statement. For those readers that have never been a victim, there is a sincere hope that your security awareness skills are on point because malware and ransomware generators are growing more popular and readily available for malicious actors.

There are over 5.22 billion smartphone users in the world, representing 66% of the global population. The population of users grew by 93 million in 2020, with an annual growth rate of 1.8%. Mobile subscriptions have exceeded six billion, while the number of new smartphones used daily is more than one million.[1] Furthermore, according to the RSA’s Current State of Cybercrime whitepaper, about 70% of fraudulent transactions originated from mobile platforms, with popular mobile attack vectors including malware, data tampering, and data loss.[2] One last note for a clearer perspective. The average household in the United States is likely to have two or more cell phones, which often outnumber laptops or workstations and is part of the average 10 connected smart devices per family.

[1] https://financesonline.com/number-of-smartphone-users-worldwide/

[2] https://community.rsa.com/yfcdo34327/attachments/yfcdo34327/fraud-risk-intelligence-blog/18/1/RSA-CurrentStateofCybercrime-2019.pdf

Payload Generation

The likelihood of a cyber attack on a mobile platform is significantly high, but how difficult is it for a malicious actor to generate malware? You might be surprised. As shown in Figure 1, a simple search on GitHub (https:// github.com) for the string, Android ransomware, returned nine (9) code repositories.

Figure 1. GitHub Search Results for Android Ransomware Code Repositories

While most of the publicly available repositories were updated within the last year, Redbot Security observed one (1) updated as recently as July 22, 2023 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Active Development

GitHub stores code repositories, and the individual projects typically include detailed instructions on installing, configuring, and using the publicly available code. Furthermore, other simple internet searches return blogs and content about how to effectively deploy the ransomware, while video tutorials are located on YouTube.

Still think it might take some deep-level skill? Think again. Most of the ransomware observed on GitHub is a derivative of the Simple Android Ransomware Attack (SARA) project, which includes a guided walkthrough and ‘Fill in the Blank’ prompts. On a Kali Linux VM, Redbot Security generated a deployable Android Package (APK) within minutes.

Figure 3: Successfully Compiled APK and Ready for Deployment

Deployment strategies can differ between malicious threat actors, but payload creation is beyond easy!

Other Notable Mention

The above example was just one of many. However, for further awareness, it’s a good time to mention another tool, StormBreaker, which is also available on GitHub and publicly accessible. This particular tool operates more as a web application with a suite of tools for Social Engineering. More importantly, it can extract the victim’s browser and IP information, GPS location, enable the microphone, and access the camera. The skill required to discreetly operate [red team style], requires a fair bit of knowledge, but many videos and guides are available to reduce the learning curve.

Protections to Avoid Ransomware

  1. Security Awareness
  2. Install Endpoint Protection for Mobile Devices
  3. Avoid Giving Out Personal Information
  4. Use a Pin, Password, or Pattern to Lock Your Device
  5. Download Apps Only from Trusted Stores
  6. Backup You Data
  7. Keep the Operating System Updated
  8. Log Out of Sites and Applications After Use
  9. Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth When Not in Use
  10. And this goes without saying… Don’t click on untrusted links.

Lastly, if you are a parent of a child with a smartphone or an elderly family member, take the time to educate them on the potential dangers of smartphones, potential scams, and the dangers of sharing your personal information.

Conclusion

In conclusion, ransomware poses a significant and ever-growing threat to individuals, businesses, and organizations across the globe. As we have discussed, ransomware attacks continue to increase in frequency and sophistication, leaving victims with devastating consequences such as financial loss, reputational damage, and operational disruptions. The rapid evolution of ransomware techniques, including advanced encryption algorithms and social engineering tactics, makes it essential for everyone to protect their digital assets proactively. To mitigate the risks posed by ransomware, adopting a multi-layered cybersecurity approach is crucial. A few things you can do to protect your data include:

  • Regularly backing up data to offline or off-site locations.
  • Implementing robust security measures such as firewalls and antivirus software.
  • Conducting security awareness training for employees.
  • Staying up to date with the latest security patches and updates. 

Additionally, collaborating with cybersecurity professionals and investing in advanced threat intelligence solutions can provide organizations with the expertise and tools to effectively detect, prevent, and respond to ransomware attacks. By prioritizing cybersecurity and implementing preventive measures, we can minimize the impact of ransomware and safeguard our digital infrastructure. Remember, no organization or individual is immune to ransomware attacks. Ransomware incidents are not only a financial burden but also compromise sensitive data and erode trust. As the threat landscape grows, we must remain vigilant and proactive in our cybersecurity efforts. By doing so, we can protect ourselves, our businesses, and our communities from dangerous and pervasive ransomware threats.

Picture of Andrew Bindner, CSO

Andrew Bindner, CSO

Andrew has 20+ years of hands-on security experience leading teams or working individually on highly technical engagements for a wide variety of commercial and government industries in IT and OT security. Andrew is an active security community leader/member that has developed Redbot Security’s penetration testing methodologies, security policies, attack tools, social engineering tactics, and application and IoT testing guidance. Andrew is able to hack his way into a variety of IT/OT networks, devices and applications and has been known take over entire cities, Simulating Real World Attacks – Before they Become Real…

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