Viruses and malware on phones are becoming increasingly common, with many users reporting performance issues, abnormal battery drain, pop-up ads, and other problems caused by malicious apps and files. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to scan for and remove viruses from your Android or iOS device.
How do you know if your phone has a virus?
Some common signs your phone may be infected include:
- Decreased performance – Apps crashing or freezing, slow loading times
- Excessive pop-up ads – Ads appearing out of nowhere, even when browsing reputable sites
- Unusual activity – Strange sounds, vibration or flashing when no notifications are present
- High data usage – Large amounts of mobile data being used even when phone is idle
- Hot phone – Phone feels warmer than usual for no reason
- Battery drain – Battery depleting faster than normal
- Unknown apps – Apps you don’t remember downloading appearing on your phone
If you notice any of these issues, it’s a good idea to scan your phone for malware.
How to check for viruses on Android
Here are some ways to check for and remove malware on Android devices:
Use a security app
Install a trusted security app like Lookout, AVG Antivirus or Bitdefender to scan your phone for viruses and other threats. These apps will scan files, apps and processes running on your device and alert you to any malicious activity.
Scan with Google Play Protect
Google Play Protect is built into all phones with Google Play Services and automatically scans apps from the Play Store for threats. To check it:
- Open the Play Store app
- Tap the hamburger menu in the top left corner
- Go to Play Protect
- Review detected threats and remove any suspicious apps
Use free antivirus apps
There are many free antivirus apps on the Play Store you can install and run manual scans with such as AVG Antivirus Free and Avast Mobile Security. Make sure to only download apps from reputable developers.
Scan with your device manufacturer
Many device manufacturers such as Samsung and LG include free antivirus scanning software pre-installed on phones. Check your phone’s apps for a “Security” or “Antivirus” app made by your device brand.
Factory reset your phone
As a last resort, performing a factory reset will wipe your phone back to factory settings, removing any malware present. Make sure to backup important data first as it will all be erased.
How to check for viruses on iPhone
Here are some ways to check for and remove threats on iPhones:
Scan with antivirus apps
Install antivirus apps like AVG AntiVirus Security, Avast Mobile Security or Lookout to scan for iOS malware and weaknesses in your security. These can detect issues Apple’s built-in protections may miss.
Check for unknown profiles
Go to Settings > General > Profiles & Device Management and look for any unknown or suspicious profiles. These could be allowing malware to run on your device and should be removed.
Update your device
Make sure your iPhone is running the latest version of iOS. Apple releases regular security patches and upgrades, so updates protect against emerging threats.
Restore your iPhone
As a last resort, you can wipe and restore your iPhone to factory settings. This will remove any malware but also erase your data, so make sure to backup first.
Jailbreaking removes many of Apple’s built-in iOS security features, so jailbroken devices are at much higher risk. Avoid downloading unauthorized apps and stick to trusted sources like the App Store.
How to avoid viruses on your phone
Here are some tips to improve security and avoid malware infections on your mobile device:
Install apps only from official stores
Stick to downloading apps from the official Google Play Store on Android or the App Store on iPhone. Avoid unknown third-party app stores which may contain malware.
Don’t click questionable links
Phishing attacks try and trick you into clicking infected links in emails, messages and online ads. Carefully inspect any links before tapping them.
Don’t install from unknown sources
Never download and install APK files from random websites or allow installation from unknown sources in settings. This bypasses security checks performed by app stores.
Keep your device updated
Install system and security updates as soon as they become available. These patches fix vulnerabilities that malware could exploit.
Use secure connections
Only connect to secure WiFi networks with passwords, and avoid public networks. Use a VPN when on public WiFi to encrypt your connection.
Don’t jailbreak your iPhone
Jailbreaking removes many iOS security features, leaving your device open to higher risk. Avoid jailbreaking unless absolutely necessary.
Install antivirus software
Consider installing a trusted antivirus app for extra protection, even though app stores screen for malware. Antivirus software can catch new threats.
Backup your data
Regularly backup important data in case you need to wipe your phone to remove a stubborn infection. Backup to cloud storage or an external hard drive.
Be cautious with downloads
Don’t open email attachments or download files unless you’re certain of the source. Malware is often spread through infected files.
How to remove a virus from your Android phone
If your Android device is infected, here are the steps to disinfect it:
Delete suspicious apps
Check your app list for any apps you don’t remember downloading and uninstall them. Malware is often disguised as legitimate apps.
Run antivirus scans
Use a trusted antivirus app to scan for malware and follow prompts to delete infected files. Repeat scans until no threats are detected.
Reset default apps
Malware will sometimes set itself as the default for functions like web browsing. Go into Settings > Apps > Default Apps to reset defaults.
Clear cache and data
Open your device settings, go to each app and choose Clear Cache and Clear Data to remove potentially infected app components.
Check running services
Go to Settings > Apps/Application Manager and review all running services and remove any that seem suspicious or unnecessary.
Restart in safe mode
Restart your phone in safe mode (hold power button until the power off screen appears, then press and hold “Restart in safe mode”). This will disable third-party apps so you can remove malware.
Factory reset device
If the malware persists, perform a factory reset to wipe your device and remove all files and apps. Make sure to backup data first.
How to remove a virus from your iPhone
To clean malware off an infected iPhone:
Delete suspicious apps
Check your app library for any apps you don’t remember downloading and delete them. Malware apps often disguise themselves as legitimate.
Run antivirus scans
Install a trusted iOS antivirus app and perform full scans until no threats are detected. Follow prompts to delete infected files.
Reset network settings
Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings to clear potentially compromised network settings and configurations.
Remove device management profiles
Check Settings > General > Profiles & Device Management for unknown or suspicious profiles used to install malware and delete them.
Restore your iPhone
You can wipe and restore your iPhone to factory default settings through iTunes or Finder to delete malware. Backup data first.
Install the latest iOS updates, which include security patches for emerging threats. Keep your system up to date.
Prevent phone viruses
Here are some final tips to keep your phone free of viruses:
- Only install apps from official stores like the Play Store and App Store
- Don’t click questionable links in messages, emails and online
- Use secure WiFi connections and avoid public networks
- Keep your phone updated with the latest security patches
- Don’t jailbreak your iPhone as it removes security layers
- Use a trusted antivirus app for extra protection
- Backup your data regularly in case you need to reset your phone
- Be cautious when downloading files and opening email attachments
Following good security practices is the best way to keep your phone free of malware and running smoothly. If you do get infected, antivirus scans, deleting suspicious apps, and resetting your device can usually clear out any infection.
Viruses and malware are an increasing threat on phones, but there are steps you can take to protect your device and remove existing infections. Install apps only from official stores, don’t click questionable links, use antivirus apps, keep your device updated and backup your data. If you think your phone has a virus, security scans, deleting suspicious apps and resetting your device can usually resolve the issue and get you back to normal.