Uncovering the Face of Android Ransomware: Characterization and Real-Time Detection

Jing Chen, Chiheng Wang, Ziming Zhao, Kai Chen, Ruiying Du, Gail-Joon Ahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


In recent years, we witnessed a drastic increase of ransomware, especially on popular mobile platforms including Android. Ransomware extorts victims for a sum of money by taking control of their devices or files. In light of their rapid growth, there is a pressing need to develop effective countermeasure solutions. However, the research community is still constrained by the lack of a comprehensive data set, and there exists no insightful understanding of mobile ransomware in the wild. In this paper, we focus on the Android platform and aim to characterize existing Android ransomware. Specifically, we have managed to collect 2,721 ransomware samples that cover the majority of existing Android ransomware families. Based on these samples, we systematically characterize them from several aspects, including timeline and malicious features. In addition, the detection results of existing anti-virus tools are rather disappointing, which clearly calls for customized anti-mobile-ransomware solutions. To detect ransomware that extorts users by encrypting data, we propose a novel real-time detection system, called RansomProber. By analyzing the user interface widgets of related activities and the coordinates of users' finger movements, RansomProber can infer whether the file encryption operations are initiated by users. The experimental results show that RansomProber can effectively detect encrypting ransomware with high accuracy and acceptable runtime performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8241433
Pages (from-to)1286-1300
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Android
  • Ransomware
  • real-time detection
  • user interface (UI) indicator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Computer Networks and Communications


Dive into the research topics of 'Uncovering the Face of Android Ransomware: Characterization and Real-Time Detection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this