Spyware, adware, and other types of malware used to affect only our computers. But now that almost everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, Android viruses are starting to spread too. Even though they are still not very common, there’s more than one way to end up with one on your phone.
How does a virus get into Android devices?
Users should install updates as soon as they are available, both for the OS and individual apps. They often contain important security patches, and if you forget or postpone them, someone might exploit the vulnerabilities to get malware into your device.
Using third-party app stores
Official app stores vet every app they offer, but malicious applications still occasionally manage to slip in. Third-party app stores have no such regulations, so you never know whether the app will be genuine or not. Malware is often disguised as popular apps to trick people into downloading and installing them. Unfortunately, a lot of people tempted by the free offer get a virus instead.
Clicking on malicious links
It might be a phishing email urging you to log into your bank account or a flashy banner on an insecure website. Clicking on it could download malware to your smartphone. Many people don’t even notice that they’ve downloaded something until their devices start malfunctioning.
Virus on Android: signs to look out for
If you think your Android might have malware, there are a few things you should pay attention to:
A sudden drop in battery life. Malware will drain your battery faster. You can check for unusual power usage in your device’s settings. If any of the apps use more energy than they should — especially if it’s one that you have recently installed — make sure to investigate.
The device slows down and overheats. In addition to battery power, malware will also use a lot of other resources. This will cause your phone to lag so much it becomes difficult to use. However, decreased performance is normal if you’ve already had your phone for a while. And if you’re doing something that requires a lot of resources, like playing a game, the device can get quite warm too.
Your bills look different. Malware might use your data to send and receive information. It could also make calls or send SMS to spread itself to your contacts. Check your messages, outgoing calls, and data usage statistics. If anything seems out of the ordinary (like data usage spikes in the middle of the night), it could mean that you have a virus on your phone.
Invasive ads. If you started seeing pop-ups whenever you browse on your smartphone, it’s probably infected with adware. Don’t click on any of them, as they will likely lead you to websites with more malware. A virus could also randomly redirect you to malicious sites when you try to access something else. Again, don’t click on anything, close the browser app immediately, and perform a virus scan.
How to check for malware on Android
If you’re experiencing problems with your Android, a virus scan can help determine if you really have malware. There are a lot of antivirus apps on the Google Play Store, developed by popular security brands. Most will even offer a free scan.
It should reveal any malicious apps and files you have, but in case nothing comes up, you can try deleting apps that you installed most recently. You should pay special attention if there are any that you don’t remember downloading in the first place.
How to remove a virus from an Android device
Go to the app list in the settings and tap on the ones you want to delete. If the “Uninstall” button is unresponsive, the app probably has admin access. However, it can still be removed.
Go to the security settings on your device and check the administrators. If there are any apps that you know shouldn’t have this access, deactivate them. That should allow you to delete them normally.
The nuclear option
If all else fails, there’s one last thing you can do — a factory reset. Setting up your phone again might take some time, but at least it’s a guarantee you’ll get rid of the malware. Go to the system settings and select “Factory reset.” Make sure to save your contacts, important messages, and photos to the cloud before doing it because your phone will be wiped clean.
Nevertheless, be careful even on the Play store, as there are a lot of clones — apps that only pretend to be popular services. Always check the developer and reviews before downloading anything. If something seems off, search for more information online just to stay on the safe side.
If you’re concerned that you might get another virus, download an antivirus app. There are both paid and free options to choose from. Keep in mind that they don’t always work perfectly and might flag apps that are safe to use. But that will, at the very least, encourage you to double-check everything you download and give you peace of mind.