With the rise in cyber threats, malware, and viruses, it’s important for Android users to regularly check their devices for potential infections. However, scanning and detecting viruses on Android phones is often overlooked or poorly understood. This comprehensive guide will provide readers with an in-depth look at how to check an Android device for viruses and other types of malicious software.
Why you should check for viruses
There are a few key reasons why regularly scanning for viruses on your Android device is crucial:
- Android malware is on the rise – The number of harmful apps targeting Android users is increasing every year. Industry reports indicate that there are now over 3 million Android malware samples.
- Viruses can steal sensitive data – Malware may secretly access and transmit your personal photos, messages, banking details and other private information.
- Infections can be hard to spot – Sometimes there are no obvious symptoms of an infection. Running scans helps detect and remove threats.
- Viruses can brick devices – In some cases, severe malware on Android can lock you out of your device entirely or make the phone unusable.
Regular scanning gives you peace of mind and protects your phone or tablet from compromised security, stolen data, unwanted ads and pop-ups, decreased performance, and other issues viruses can cause.
Manual virus scans
The most thorough way to check for viruses on Android is to manually scan your device. There are built-in scanner options, third-party apps you can download, and steps you can take to identify risks:
Use your device’s security software
Many Android devices come pre-loaded with built-in antivirus software. Here’s how to run scans using native security tools:
- Samsung – Open the pre-installed “Device Care” or “Device Maintenance” app. Go to the Security section and tap “Scan Phone.”
- Sony – Find the “Xperia Security” app and click “Scan.” This will check for viruses.
- Nokia – Launch the “Nokia Security” app and tap “Scan device.” Results will display detected threats.
- LG – Locate the “LG Mobile Switch” app and select “Diagnose” to scan for malware.
Check your device manufacturer’s support site for details if you don’t see built-in security options.
Download antivirus apps
If your Android doesn’t have preloaded antivirus features, download a free security app from the Google Play Store. Reputable options include:
- AVG Antivirus – Malware scanner from a leading security brand.
- Avast Mobile Security – Provides virus, malware, and network protection.
- Malwarebytes – Detects and removes dangerous viruses and apps.
- Lookout Security & Antivirus – Scans apps, files, and networks for threats.
These apps frequently update their virus definitions to identify the latest risks. They also include features like URL checks, app locking, backup, and theft protection.
Be aware of signs of infection
Sometimes malware doesn’t get detected in scans. Keep an eye out for common virus symptoms:
- Decreased battery life and unexpected battery drain.
- Sluggish performance and freezing.
- Unexpected pop-up ads you can’t close.
- Apps crashing or force closing.
- Weird sounds, vibrations, or music playing.
- Unknown charges or apps installed without consent.
- High data usage from background processes.
- Overheating when not in heavy use.
If you notice any of these, run a scan to check for potential infections.
Web security scans
In addition to manual virus scans, you can use online scanners to check your Android:
VirusTotal is a free online service that analyzes files and URLs for viruses and malware. To scan your Android:
- Enable “USB debugging” mode on your device.
- Connect your phone to your computer with a USB cable.
- On the computer, go to virustotal.com and click “Browse”.
- Locate your connected Android device and open its folders.
- Drag and drop an Android system file from your phone to the VirusTotal browser window.
- Results will display any detected threats.
This allows you to scan system files that may contain hidden malware not visible to regular device scans.
The Android Observatory by Anthropic scans devices for security issues and benchmarks them against others. To use it:
- Visit observatory.android.com on the Android device browser.
- Tap “Get Started” and allow the necessary permissions.
- After scanning completes, view your device’s Observatory report.
This examins your phone’s settings and configurations to detect problems. It also provides steps to improve your security.
factory data reset} your Android device
If your device is severely infected and antivirus apps aren’t fixing the issue, you may need to factory reset your phone to wipe it clean. Before restoring your Android:
- Back up your data – Copy important files and info to the cloud or external storage using Google Backup, Smart Switch, or apps.
- Sign out of accounts – Make sure to sign out of any email, social, banking, and other apps to protect credentials.
- Unlock bootloader – If bootloader locked, unlock so device can be reset.
Next, perform the factory reset:
- Open “Settings” and select “System”.
- Choose “Reset options” or “Reset phone”.
- Tap “Erase all data (factory reset)”
- Confirm reset when prompted.
The device will reboot and restore to factory conditions. When setup completes, restore your data and apps from backup.
Prevent future Android malware
After checking and cleaning your device, keep these tips in mind to avoid viruses going forward:
- Don’t download apps from unknown sources – Get apps from the official Google Play store only.
- Beware of phishing emails and texts – Don’t click suspicious links that can install malware.
- Keep your Android updated – Install system and security updates as soon as available.
- Avoid sideloading APK files – Downloading direct APK files bypasses the Play Store’s security checks.
- Don’t root your device – Rooting makes your device more vulnerable to security risks.
- Use secure WiFi networks – Public WiFi is often not encrypted which exposes you to attacks.
- Install a VPN – Virtual private networks add a layer of security when browsing on public networks.
Combining smart habits with regular virus scans is the best way to keep your Android malware-free and protect your data and privacy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most common Android viruses?
Some of the most prevalent Android malware includes:
- Trojans – Malicious apps that appear legitimate but can gain access to your system.
- Spyware – Software that tracks your activities and steals data.
- Adware – Apps that bombard you with intrusive advertisements.
- Ransomware – Malware that locks your device and demands payment to unlock it.
- Banking malware – Designed to steal your financial login details and account information.
What are the signs my phone has a virus?
Indications your Android device may be infected include:
- Many new apps you didn’t install appearing.
- Pop-up ads and redirects to sketchy websites.
- Sluggish performance and frequent freezing or crashing.
- High battery drain even when not actively using your device.
- Calls, texts, or bills from premium numbers you didn’t contact.
- Unusual or unauthorized credit card charges.
- Camera or microphone activating unexpectedly.
Can factory reset remove a virus?
Yes, performing a factory reset (aka “master reset”) will wipe your Android device back to default factory conditions. This will remove any viruses or malware present, but also erase your data and settings. Be sure to fully back up your phone before resetting.
How can I avoid Android viruses?
Tips to improve Android security and prevent malware include:
- Installing a reputable antivirus app like AVG or Bitdefender.
- Only downloading apps from the official Google Play store.
- Scanning new apps before installing.
- Keeping your device OS and security patches up-to-date.
- Using secure WiFi connections or VPN service when browsing.
- Not opening links or attachments from unknown or suspicious sources.
Viruses and malware are growing threats all Android users face. Make it a habit to manually scan your device at least weekly. Watch for telltale signs of infection like performance issues. Leverage additional web scanners for second opinions. Reset your phone if threats persist. And above all, exercise caution when installing apps and clicking links to keep your data secure.
Protecting your Android doesn’t need to be complicated. Follow this guide, use one of the recommended antivirus apps, and be vigilant when downloading files or using public WiFi to keep your device free of viruses and potential cyber-attacks.