Do you believe that your phone has a virus? Is it displaying some unusual behavior, or are you unsure about an app you downloaded recently? Luckily, if your phone has been infected it is relatively easy to remove it.
Read this article to find in one place everything you need to know about viruses and malware on Android and how to protect yourself. We will tell you exactly what you need to do to remove a virus from your phone. We will also let you know how to avoid getting infected in the first place and recommend some trusted anti-virus programs you can use.
Android Virus? Do They Exist? What Do They Do?
The terminology of ‘virus’ has been carried over from PCs, where the term specifically refers to a program which replicates itself by attaching to another program. The term virus is now commonly used more generally to refer to any malicious software – malware – which is more accurately what Android phones are infected with now. There hasn’t yet been any malware on phones which can replica itself as a PC virus.
Malware is something you definitely want to avoid though. It is software which is designed to secretly control a device and often steal information or money from the user.
Some of the most common Android malicious apps will do at least one of the following:
- Collect and send GPS coordinates, contact lists, e-mail addresses etc. to third parties
- Steal passwords and account numbers
- Put false charges onto users’ accounts – eg. sending SMSs to premium-rate numbers
- Subscribe users to premium services
- Record phone conversations and send them to attackers
- Download other malware onto infected phones
- Add push notification and icon ads – which often launch a web page or search engine when clicked
How was My Android Phone Infected Anyway?
Android viruses/ malware are almost exclusively installed via downloading and installing dodgy third-party apps. The best way to avoid Android malware is to only download apps from the secured confines of the Google Play store, or other reputable app stores.
Dodgy apps are automatically removed from GooglePlay as soon as Google becomes aware there is an issue. It is also automatically removed from all infected devices. In March 2018 seven apps were removed when it was discovered they contained the Andr/HiddnAd-AJ malware, which fills devices with ads and notifications six hours after its installation. However, sometimes the same malware pops up in different apps from different developers and inevitably there can be some delay and some people will download the dodgy app before it is removed.
All the biggest Android malware which have been in the headlines over the last few years were installed by users via apps: Gunpowder, Ghost Trojan, Googlian, and Godless all became problems in this way. Mazar came in via a text message which prompted the user to download the Tor browser, but obviously, the user was downloading something else entirely.
It is also worth mentioning that it’s is unlikely your Android phone or tablet has been infected with malware. What you might actually see is an ad trying to convince you that your Android is infected and you need to download an app, or it could be a dodgy pop-up, or perhaps your device is just misbehaving for another reason.
However, if you’re convinced that you have been unlucky enough to have a device infected with malware, read on for instructions on removing it from your device.
Best Ways to Avoid Being Infected
- Only install apps from Google Play, unless you know exactly what you are doing: By default, it should be set so you can only do this, but to check by going to Settings, then Security, and ensuring Unknown Sources option is disabled. Make sure anything you download outside GooglePlay is a legitimate and reputable site and not a fake site.
- Avoid cloned apps: Avoid downloading what looks like cloned apps from unknown developers.
- Check app permissions: Check the apps required permissions before you install it. Never allow an app device admin permission, which prevents it from being deleted, or permissions which don’t make sense for its function. Also check app reviews online to see if the developer is genuine and trustworthy.
- Keep your Android device up to date: Always have the latest version of the Android operating system you can get for your device. Some manufacturers are better at keeping their OS updated than others, so is still no guarantee that all the patches have been rolled out to your device.
- Install an antivirus/ anti-malware app: This is not absolutely necessary, but to prevent further threats and give you peace of mind, you might want to install one. Some apps may also give some false positives, which can be frustrating, but mostly they work well.
Our top recommendations for anti-virus/ anti-malware apps on Android are:
Bitdefender Antivirus Free
This is a powerful, lightweight antivirus tool offering protection against all major Android threats. It uses in-the-cloud scanning technology and offers real-time protection that scans apps as they are installed. There is also a paid version with more advanced features.
Avast Mobile Security
Avast is a very popular antivirus and this free app for Android and has over 100 million downloads in the Play Store. There are in-app purchases so you can remove ads and access the app locking facility and other special features.
How to Remove Malware from an Infected Android Device?
- Put your device into Safe mode. This is to prevent any third-party apps running, including any malware. On many devices can access safe mode by pressing and holding the Power button to bring up an option to restart in Safe mode. Otherwise, do a search for what steps you need to do on your device. You will see you are in ‘Safe mode’ at the bottom left of the screen.
- Open the Apps menu and locate the malicious app. Open your Settings menu and select Apps – make sure you’re viewing the downloaded apps. You probably know when your device started misbehaving, and you can often line that up with an app you might have downloaded, or you might already know the name or the dodgy app. If you aren’t sure which app has infected your Android device, go through the list and look for anything dodgy, or something you don’t recognize, haven’t installed or you think shouldn’t be running on your device.
- Uninstall the malicious app. Click on the app you think has infected your device to open the app info page. Click Uninstall.
- Remove administrator status of the malicious app if necessary. If the Uninstall button is greyed out, you will need to remove the administrator status first. Exit the Apps menu and go to Settings, then Security, then Device Administrators. Find the app in the list of apps with administrator status and untick the box. Then confirm by hitting deactivate on the next screen. Now return to the apps menu and Uninstall the app.
- Now the malicious app has been removed, restart your device to take it out of Safe mode.
If all else fails a factory reset will clear the infection. Hopefully, you have your phone backed up though.
Of course with your device now working properly again, this is the perfect time to back up all the important data on your device, and go ahead and install an Android antivirus/ anti-malware app to help protect you from any malicious apps in the future.