How do I safely clean my phone from viruses?

In the opening paragraphs, it’s important to quickly answer some common questions about cleaning phones from viruses. Here are some quick answers to get us started:

What are the main ways phones get viruses?

The most common ways phones get infected with viruses and malware are: visiting compromised websites, downloading infected apps, clicking on phishing links in texts/emails, connecting to public WiFi networks, and receiving infected files via Bluetooth or USB.

What are symptoms my phone may be infected?

Signs your phone may have a virus include increased data usage, fast battery drain, pop-up ads, apps crashing frequently, unusual heating, slow performance, and suspicious background activity.

Can iPhones get viruses?

Yes, iPhones can get infected through unsafe web browsing, phishing attacks via iMessage/email, and downloading malware from outside the App Store. However, they are generally more secure than Android devices.

What’s the best way to remove a phone virus?

The most thorough method is to backup your data, factory reset the device, only reinstall apps from safe sources like official app stores, and avoid actions that led to infection. Antivirus apps can also detect and remove threats.

How can I avoid phone viruses in the future?

Practices like not clicking suspicious links/attachments, using reputable apps, updating software, avoiding public WiFi for sensitive tasks, and enabling security options like firewalls and antivirus can help prevent future infections.

In today’s digital world, our smartphones contain a wealth of sensitive personal and financial data. A virus infection can lead to issues like identity theft, stolen passwords, malware sending premium SMS texts, and hackers remotely accessing your phone’s camera and microphone. That’s why it’s critical to know how to keep your phone and its data secure.

Viruses and other types of malware are unfortunately a common threat on phones. In 2020, researchers saw an average of over 11 malware threats per user per month on mobile devices. Both iPhones and Android phones are at risk. Attacks are also becoming more sophisticated and difficult to detect.

Luckily there are steps you can take to check for, remove, and prevent viruses and malware. With the right precautions, you can keep your phone clean and safeguard your personal information.

Common Ways Viruses Infect Phones

To better understand how to protect your phone, it helps to know the most common ways mobile viruses are contracted in the first place:

  • Visiting compromised websites – Malicious sites can run scripts that install malware or exploits without you needing to download anything.
  • Downloading infected apps – Apps from unofficial stores outside the Apple App Store and Google Play Store are higher risk for containing malware.
  • Clicking phishing links – Messages and emails with infected links can install malware if clicked, even on iOS.
  • Connecting to public WiFi – Unsecured hotspots make it easy for hackers to spread malware to devices.
  • Bluetooth or USB file transfers -Receiving and opening infected files from other devices can trigger malware.

Some other potential infection vectors are SMS text messages containing malicious links, drive-by downloads from insecure ad networks on apps and sites, and malware pre-installed on new phones. But in general, those listed above are the most prevalent.

Signs Your Phone May Have a Virus

Sometimes there are clear symptoms that indicate your phone has been infected by a virus or some other kind of attack. Watch out for these signs:

  • Increased data usage – Malware may be running background tasks that use mobile data. Watch for spikes on your bill or app usage screens.
  • Fast battery drain – Similar to data usage, malware can drain battery in the background by overusing CPU, network access, etc.
  • Pop-up ads – Malicious adware networks show intrusive pop-up ads outside your normal apps and browsers.
  • Apps crashing frequently – Viruses can sometimes corrupt apps and cause them to crash or freeze unexpectedly.
  • Unusual device heating – Overuse of device components causes some malware to make devices warmer than usual.
  • Slow performance – Heavy malware activity can slow down your device as it competes for resources.
  • Suspicious background activity – Odd noises, music, or other activity coming from your phone could indicate malware.

Some other less common warning signs are alarms going off randomly, rearranged device settings, pop-up messages about security issues, and connected device like Bluetooth speakers disconnecting unexpectedly. If you notice any of these issues, it may mean your phone has been compromised in some way.

Can iPhones Get Viruses?

There is a common misconception that iPhones can’t get viruses, but this is not true. iPhones are susceptible to threats like:

  • Malware from unsafe browsing – Going to compromised sites, even in Safari, can lead to virus infections.
  • Phishing attacks via email/texts – Apple devices can still receive and open infected phishing links.
  • Infected apps – Apps sideloaded from outside the App Store may contain malware.

That said, iPhones do have tighter security and app screening than Android devices. Some key iPhone security advantages are:

  • Closed operating system – Apple’s iOS is more locked down and controls hardware access more tightly than Android.
  • App Store screening – Apple reviews and verifies apps before allowing them on the App Store.
  • Sandboxing – Apps are confined in iOS and prevented from accessing other parts of the system.
  • Encrypted backups – Device data is stored securely in encrypted backups by default.

While not invulnerable, these measures do make iPhones more resistant to malware. But it’s still important to be cautious and watch for signs of infection.

Removing Viruses from Phones

If you suspect your phone is already infected, here are the steps to disinfect it and get rid of any viruses or other malware:

  1. Backup your data – To avoid data loss, backup contacts, files, etc. to cloud storage or a computer.
  2. Factory reset the phone – This will completely wipe the device and remove any malware lurking in the system.
  3. Only reinstall apps from official stores – Get apps directly from the Apple App Store or Google Play to avoid malware.
  4. Avoid actions that led to infection – Don’t repeat unsafe browsing, downloads, clicks, etc. that may have caused the infection.
  5. Run security scans – Use a reputable antivirus app to check for and remove any remaining threats.
  6. Enable security options – Turn on options like firewalls and malware detection in device settings.

Factory resetting your device may feel like a drastic step, but it’s the most thorough way to wipe out viruses and restore your phone to a clean state. This process will remove any malware or suspicious files that may be embedded deep in your device’s storage. After the reset, you can then bring back only known good data and apps.

Using Antivirus Apps to Remove Threats

Antivirus and security apps provide an alternate way to detect and remove malware without fully resetting your device. Here are some top options:

Android Antivirus Apps

  • Bitdefender Mobile Security – Provides excellent malware protection and includes web filtering, app locking, and anti-theft tools.
  • Norton Mobile Security – Detects and removes malware plus includes a VPN, WiFi security, and parental controls.
  • Avast Mobile Security – Scans apps, files, and media; also features anti-theft, firewall, and web protections.

iPhone Antivirus Apps

  • McAfee Mobile Security – Protects from phishing attacks and malicious sites; includes device tracker.
  • Norton 360 for Mobile – Provides malware scanning along with contact backup and secure VPN access.
  • TotalAV Antivirus for iOS – Scans for malware and monitors network traffic and vulnerabilities.

Run full scans with one of these apps to check for and quarantine infections. Schedule regular scans to stay protected. But keep in mind antivirus apps have limitations, so unsafe browsing and downloads are still risky.

How to Avoid Phone Viruses

Stopping infections in the first place is the best form of defense. Here are tips to improve security and avoid mobile viruses:

  • Don’t click suspicious links or attachments in messages, emails, and sites.
  • Only install apps from official app stores like Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store.
  • Keep your phone’s software up-to-date since updates fix security issues.
  • Avoid connecting to public WiFi hotspots when banking, shopping, or accessing sensitive accounts.
  • Don’t leave Bluetooth on all the time – turn it on only when pairing devices.
  • Enable firewalls, antimalware, and security options available in phone settings.
  • Consider using a VPN to encrypt traffic when on public networks.
  • Never jailbreak or root your phone as it disables important security measures.

Being cautious about downloads, avoiding suspicious links, installing updates promptly, and enabling built-in security options will go a long way towards keeping your phone free of viruses.


Smartphones contain a wealth of sensitive data, so a virus infection can lead to compromised accounts, stolen information, and other issues. While iPhones have tight security, they can still be impacted. And the more open Android OS makes its devices more vulnerable to malware attacks from unsafe sites and untrusted apps.

Keeping phones virus-free takes caution when browsing the web, downloading apps, connecting to WiFi, and opening messages. Watch for unusual behavior like increased data usage and poor battery life. Factory resets fully wipe malware but can cost time and data. Antivirus apps provide a simpler way to detect and remove threats.

With the right combination of awareness, security tools, and safe practices, users can avoid mobile viruses and keep their phones and personal data safe.