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Android Ransomware Kits on the Rise in the Dark Web

More than 5,000 Android ransomware kit listings have been spotted so far this year, with the median price range hitting $200.

Most ransomware kits still focus on targeting Windows systems, but Android ransomware kits are selling for a premium and are expected to grow in volume and price, according to a new report.

Android ransomware kits sell for a median price that is 20 times higher than the $10 median price of Windows ransomware kits, Carbon Black found. And at the high-end, Carbon Black this year found 1,683 Android ransomware kits out of a total of 5,050 that cost anywhere from $250 to $850.

Earlier this year, for example, cybercriminals launched DoubleLocker ransomware for Android devices to not only lock up their data but also change their pin. One cybercriminal wanted $854 for the Locker Android ransomware kit, according to Carbon Black.

Several catalysts are expected to drive the price and sales volume of these ransomware kits even higher, says Rick McElroy, a Carbon Black security strategist.

"Apple users have a tendency to buy new phones when they come out and update their applications and operating systems on a regular basis. Because Android devices are cheaper, there is a much wider variance in consumer and in the version of OS and patch levels," McElroy says. With Android users being remiss in updating their devices, attackers have a greater shot of launching a successful Android ransomware campaign, he notes.

"One of the most surprising things was how many Android devices are out there that have not been updated for two years now, and probably never will," McElroy says. "Updates are usually simple to conduct, but many users simply don’t do them."

In addition to the patch problem, the number of Android users who could potentially be affected by a ransomware attack is large. Android holds the largest OS marketshare worldwide for smartphones, accounting for 86.1% of the market in the first quarter, according to Gartner.  

Another catalyst that is driving the median price higher for Android ransomware kits is the level of coding sophistication that is needed to create them, McElroy explains.

"This speaks a bit to how easy it is to get ransomware onto a Windows system versus other operation systems," McElroy says. "The longer a developer has to spend to get his ransomware to work effectively at scale the higher the price will be."

Bitcoin's skyrocketing value will also drive sales of Android ransomware kits, he adds. Attackers typically demand ransom payments in bitcoin, compared to other forms of cryptocurrency, security experts say.

"Android marketplaces are working hard to crack down, but attackers are very creative," says McElroy. "With Bitcoin value increasing so quickly, the expansion of this space will likely be connected closely to the value of BTC."

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Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

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