Viruses in Android phones are pretty rare (the term virus gets used as a catch-all term), but that’s not to say that it isn’t possible to pick up malware in the form of an unsavory third-party app. Or perhaps it was installed when you clicked on sneaky links within your browser. Do you receive scammy, shady, unsolicited texts? Click on the links within and you risk downloading a malicious app often cloaked in an innocent-sounding name, like PhotoViewer.
Since malware is somewhat rare, and can be inconspicuous, how do you know if your Android has a virus? A sudden increase in data usage and decrease in battery life, unwanted or unfamiliar apps mysteriously appearing, or unexplainable billings/charges can be signs.
Sophisticated malware may be able to steal private information, attempt to extort money by locking the device and demanding a ransom, or subscribe to premium services. This may sound scary, but the key takeaway is that you have to install this software in order for it to become a threat to your device.
Method 1: Confirm & Remove the Threat with an Antivirus App
If you don’t have time or you aren’t in the mood to manually locate and remove malware on your device, there are many Android apps that will assist in this process. Keep in mind, though, that since cyber criminals must rely on you to install their malicious software, they are constantly having to come up with new ideas to trick you into loading that file.
If you receive pop-up messages claiming you have a virus and offering a link to help you remove it, don’t take the bait. Ironically, these links often contain malware themselves.
There are many, many anti-malware apps to choose from in Google Play; and we could easily devote this entire article just to that topic alone, but for the sake of brevity we’ll use just one as an example. Comodo Antivirus is available through its own website, or via Google Play. Comodo is both preventative and combative against malware.
Install Comodo Antivirus for Android
Comodo was chosen for its user-friendliness and options/controls.
Download Comodo Antivirus for Android
Download: Comodo Mobile Security
Run Antivirus Scan
This should reveal any threats to your Android device so that you can deal with them.
Check Out Other Features
You can also use Comodo for data backup, remote device lock and wipe, remote locate, system health check, to restrict unauthorized calls, and for protection of your private information. It’s an easy way to remove viruses and fix errors on any Android device.
Method 2: Uninstall Via Safe Mode
Safe Mode allows you to uninstall that pesky software that’s always running in the background. In fact, it will prevent your device from loading any third-party software at all. Be prepared to have limited access to just those apps that originally came with your device.
This is part of the beauty of Safe Mode—you will have a chance to uninstall the virus while it isn’t running, and to see how your device behaves without the interference of any third-party apps.
Enter Safe Mode
On many Androids, all that is necessary to enter Safe Mode is to long-press your device’s Power button for a couple of seconds until you see the option to Power Off. Now press and hold the Power Off option for a few seconds until you see your device asking you to confirm that you want to enter Safe Mode. Press OK, and your phone will do the rest.
From your app drawer, click the icon that looks like a gear.
You will land on the Downloaded tab.
Select Suspicious App(s)
Exit the Apps menu and go back to Settings. Follow the same steps below even (or especially) if your device did not permit you to uninstall the app.
Go to Security
Some apps mandate that only an administrator can carry out an uninstallation from the device. We are about to put these apps in their place.
Tap on Device Administrators
Here you will find a list of apps on your Android with administrator status.
This is how you can overcome any app that refuses to uninstall. Note that some apps require this type of access, but do evaluate those that are listed here as to whether they really need it, are from a trusted source, and whether you give your permission.
Go Back to Apps
Back out to Settings, and click on Apps/Manage Applications again.
If you still don’t have the option to remove the offending app, try using a file manager like ES File Explorer
Download: ES File Explorer
Long-press the Power button until the phone restarts.
(Optional) Install Antivirus App
If you don’t install many apps outside of Google Play, you probably don’t really need an antivirus app. If the installation of third-party apps is commonplace for you, consider one. It certainly doesn’t hurt to enlist the aid of an app to remove viruses and fix errors on your Android device.
Method 3: Remove Ransomware
If you ever receive an alert asking you to pay a ransom in order to recover your personal files and secure your privacy, or similar message, don’t send any money.
Often the sender of the message will claim to be some governmental or legal authority, but this request for ransom is never sent by any legitimate agency. Any lawful individual or entity does not operate in this manner. Follow these steps instead.
Close All Recently Used Apps
Exit out of all open apps.
(Optional) Install an App like MalwareBytes Security
MalwareBytes Security: Virus Cleaner, Anti-Malware specializes in ransomware removal.
Stop Running Apps
Go to Settings > Apps > All Apps. If any of the apps you tried to close are still running, tap on the app, and press the Force stop button.
Use Method 2 to uninstall the ransomware.
If all else fails, go to Settings > Backup & Reset > Factory data reset.
Method 4: How to Remove Adware
It’s quite rare to find something truly free. The price of some “free” apps is often unwanted ads and pop-ups. A key indicator is that you see these adverts even when you aren’t using your browser. The best prevention is to only download apps from trusted sources.
Boot into Safe Mode
Safe Mode allows you to use the process of elimination to find out which app is infesting your system with unwanted ads.
Uninstall Suspicious Apps
Conversely, you can close all non-essential apps on your device, and start turning them on one-by-one if you would prefer. Safe Mode takes all third-party apps out of the equation, and allows you to see if your device performs better without them. You still have the option of either uninstalling apps one at a time, or batch uninstalling and re-adding apps incrementally. Naturally, most people opt for the first option, but some go for a more drastic approach when dealing with a virus.
Wipe System Cache via Recovery
Accessing Recovery Mode can vary by device, but here’s one way: turn off your Android. Long-press the key combination for your specific device (for example: Volume Up, Home, and Power) and hold. Release buttons in order according to your device (for example: release only the Power button when the phone vibrates, and all other keys when you see the recovery screen). Then use the Volume keys to navigate between options, and the Power button to select Wipe Cache Partition.
Wipe App Cache
Go through Settings > System > Storage.
Install an Antivirus like Lookout Security
Lookout Security & Antivirus has been in this game for a while. App adware scanning is part of its basic package.
If nothing above worked, backup only those apps and data that is the most important to you. Then go to Settings > Backup & Reset > Factory data reset.
These methods should remove the malware. If you are still experiencing some of the signs of a virus, like crashing apps, battery drain, or overheating; keep in mind that these things can also stem from non-viral causes. Expand your troubleshooting to include other possible sources.
What has helped you overcome malware? What is your favorite antivirus? Send us your thoughts.