Short on time? Here’s how to remove viruses & malware from smartphones in 2023:
- 1. Install an Antivirus & Run a Scan — Download a trustworthy antivirus program like Norton and run a full scan.
- 2. Remove Viruses & Malware — When the scan has finished, go through every detected file and remove any threats.
- 3. Stay Protected — Use a trustworthy and reliable internet security package to protect your device from future threats. I particularly like Norton, which had 100% malware detection rates in my tests. It also has excellent additional features, including web protection, a Wi-Fi network monitor, a firewall, SMS spam filters, a password manager, and more. Norton also includes a 60-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it out before making a purchase.
Removing viruses and malware from your smartphone is easy. However, the steps differ slightly depending on whether you’re using Android or iOS.
For example, if you’ve accidentally downloaded malware onto your Android device, you need to download a mobile antivirus app (such as Norton) and run a full system scan to remove it. But if you’re using iOS, you don’t need to worry about malware. You only need an antivirus app to protect your device from threats such as data theft, phishing websites, and smishing attacks.
That said, it’s still a good idea to have a reliable antivirus app running on your smartphone, no matter which operating system you use. This guide will show you how to protect your device and restore it if it’s been compromised by malware. It’ll also offer you some extra smartphone security tips that you need to know in 2023.
What Kinds of Malware Affect Mobile Devices?
Note: If you just want to remove malware, you can skip straight to our removal guide.
Several types of malware can affect your mobile device. They most often get onto your device when you’ve downloaded malicious apps or visited untrustworthy websites. Phone malware can include:
- Viruses — Delete your data, steal your information, and make purchases without your permission.
- Ransomware — Locks your device until you pay a ransom.
- Spyware — Monitors your data usage and sends it to fraudsters so that they can steal your online accounts and identity.
- Botnets — Use your mobile to send fraudulent emails and launch cyberattacks against others.
- Rootkits — Give hackers remote access to your device so they can steal personal data or modify your operating system.
- Adware — Generates revenue for hackers by constantly displaying unwanted advertisements on your device.
- Potentially unwanted applications (PUAs) — Can steal your data and spread other forms of malware.
You can also have your personal data stolen after visiting phishing websites. That’s why it’s super important to install an antivirus like Norton, which comes with web protection that can stop you from accessing dangerous sites.
How to Remove Malware & Prevent Security Issues on Your Smartphone (Step-By-Step Guide)
If you think your phone has been infected with malware, you can follow the 3 steps below to get rid of any threats and stay safe going forward. The simplest way to get rid of malware and prevent future security issues on your smartphone is to download antivirus software like Norton.
But even with an antivirus running, you should still exercise caution when visiting the internet. Don’t tap on links you don’t recognize, don’t download apps from outside the Google Play or Apple App stores, and don’t give your details to people you don’t trust.
Step 1. Install a Mobile Antivirus App and Identify Any Malware or Cybersecurity Threats
Download and install a trustworthy antivirus app. Norton is my favorite for mobile because it comes with several excellent features:
- Malware scanner (Android only) — Scans your Android device for malware threats and quarantines any it finds.
- Web protection — Stops you from accessing malicious websites that steal your data and personal information.
- App Advisor (Android only) — Alerts you to dangerous apps before you download them.
- Virtual private network (VPN) — Protects your privacy online by hiding your IP address behind a virtual one.
- Password manager (separate app) — Uses 256-bit AES encryption to store your passwords in an unbreakable vault, so hackers can’t steal them and you never have to remember them.
- And more…
If you’re an Android user, once you’ve installed an antivirus app, run a full scan of your device. It’s really important that you let the scan run to completion, as this will ensure that any malicious apps or files are quarantined. Once your antivirus has redirected you to your infected file list, you can proceed to step 2.
If you’re an iOS user, you can skip straight to step 3 since your iOS device isn’t at risk of malware. Apple launches all of its iOS apps in a sandbox mode, so even if a malicious app did get onto your iOS device, it wouldn’t be able to cause any damage.
Step 2. Remove Any Malware and Fix Other Security Issues
After your antivirus has finished its full system scan, it will have quarantined any suspicious files on your device. These suspicious files are moved to a secure quarantine folder where you can review them before you delete them. Go through your antivirus’s quarantine folder before making any deletions because sometimes antiviruses quarantine false positives.
If you’re an advanced user, you’ll recognize false positives. However, if you’re less tech-savvy, check with your antivirus provider’s customer support team if there are any files in quarantine that you’re not sure about deleting.
Once you’ve removed all the malware from your Android device, you should restart your phone and rerun the full system scan. Keep repeating this process until you can scan your device without any suspicious files appearing in your phone’s quarantine folder. When you reach this stage, you can proceed to step 3.
Step 3. Keep Your Devices Protected From Other Threats
Now you’ve removed all of the malware from your Android phone (or protected your iOS device using an antivirus program like Norton), you need to take precautions to prevent more malware or security threats.
- Keep your antivirus running. Having your antivirus running in the background lessens the risk of downloading more malware and protects you from phishing websites, smishing attacks, data theft, and more.
- Keep your smartphone up-to-date. If your smartphone is using old firmware or outdated apps, it’s vulnerable to exploit attacks. When developers find vulnerabilities in software, they patch them through software updates.
- To update your Android device:
- Open Settings.
- Scroll to the bottom of the menu and tap System & updates (on some versions of Android, the button is just called System).
- Tap Software update.
- To update your iOS device:
- Tap Settings.
- Tap General.
- Tap Software update.
- Enable real-time protection. A good antivirus will include real-time protection that constantly monitors and scans files to stop them from causing damage to your device.
- Use phishing protection. Phishing protection recognizes dangerous websites and stops you visiting them, so cybercriminals can’t steal your data using deceptive sites.
- Make sure your antivirus includes ransomware protection. The best antivirus apps can protect your apps and files from being locked by ransomware. Norton, McAfee, and TotalAV all successfully blocked simulated ransomware attacks in my tests.
- Only download files from official storefronts. The Apple App and Google Play stores verify apps before they’re published to their storefronts, so you’re unlikely to download anything malicious. For an extra layer of protection, Norton has an App Advisor for Android that alerts you if anything suspicious has made its way to the Google Play store. You can also safely download Android apps from Amazon’s app store.
- Secure your Wi-Fi Network. Your wireless network should be secured by a strong password. If someone can access your home network, they can access the information stored on that network. Password managers such as 1Password generate strong passwords and encrypt and store your passwords so hackers can’t steal them.
Best Antiviruses for Smartphones in 2023
Quick summary of the best antiviruses for smartphones in 2023:
🥇 1. Norton — Overall Best Smartphone Antivirus in 2023
Norton offers great protections for Android and iOS. Its malware scanner has perfect detection rates, and it only took a few minutes to find all the malware samples on my Android device, which included ransomware, spyware, adware, and more..
Norton also has:
- App Advisor (Android only).
- Web protection.
- Dark web monitoring.
- Privacy reports (iOS).
- VPN (virtual private network).
- SMS filtering.
- And more…
Norton’s web protection works well. I visited known phishing websites on both my Android and iOS devices, and Norton was able to block every single website.
I also appreciated Norton’s Android-exclusive App Advisor. When I visited the Google Play store, it let me know which apps were safe before I downloaded them.
Norton’s VPN is really good, too. It disguises your IP address behind a virtual one, making it impossible for cybercriminals to track your data. It also provides you with access to over 2,000 servers in 30+ countries, has no data limits (unlike competitors such as Bitdefender), and offers decent connection speeds.
Norton Mobile Security can cover one Android or iOS device for $14.99 / year. But if you have multiple devices and operating systems to cover, you should choose Norton 360 Deluxe. For $24.99 / year, it covers up to 5 devices and adds parental controls and 50 GB of cloud storage. Norton’s plans come with a generous 60-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full Norton review here
🥈 2. McAfee — Impressive Web Protections for Android and iOS
McAfee is an excellent antivirus app for Android and iOS that offers perfect malware detection rates. It consistently found 100% of malware samples on my Android device.
McAfee also includes:
- Anti-phishing protection.
- Secure VPN (virtual private network).
- Wi-Fi scanner.
- And more…
McAfee’s web protections are great. I visited over a dozen phishing websites on my Android and iOS devices, and McAfee blocked most of them. However, it did miss a couple of sites that Norton’s anti-phishing protection flagged.
I also really like McAfee’s Wi-Fi network scanner, which scans for issues on your Wi-Fi network, such as a weak password or vulnerabilities to SSL attacks. When I temporarily removed the password from my Wi-Fi network, McAfee alerted me to my lack of a password in less than 5 minutes — which is impressive!
McAfee Mobile Security costs $39.99 / year and offers coverage on a single Android or iOS device. If you want to cover more devices, I recommend Total Protection Premium, which costs $54.99 / year and offers coverage on unlimited devices, so you can protect your Android and iOS phone and any Windows or Mac computers in your household, too. Each plan includes a 30-day money-back guarantee.
McAfee’s plans vary depending on your location. They may have different names, include different features, or have different subscription lengths.
Read the full McAfee review here
🥉 3. TotalAV — Best Antivirus for Beginner Users
TotalAV comes with excellent malware protection inside an intuitive and beginner-friendly package. It found every malware sample on my Huawei P30 Lite, and it only took a few minutes to complete a full system scan. While the scan was running, I didn’t experience any slowdown. However, I noticed a higher battery drain than I did with Norton or McAfee.
TotalAV also includes:
- Anti-phishing protection.
- App locker (Android only).
- System tune-up tools.
- Secure in-app browser.
- And more…
I particularly like TotalAV’s system tune-up tools. The tune-up tools look for cached files, duplicate photos, and more. I saved over 1,000 MB of space on both my Android and iOS phones.
TotalAV’s VPN is also really good — in fact it’s my favorite antivirus-bundled VPN of 2023. It offers fast speeds, works with all the popular streaming sites, and unlike Norton’s VPN you can use it for torrenting too.
TotalAV Mobile Security offers coverage for a single mobile device and costs $19.00 / year. However, if you have multiple devices to cover I recommend TotalAV Total Security, which costs $49.00 / year and includes all TotalAV’s features and coverage for up to 6 devices across all the main operating systems. All TotalAV plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read the full TotalAV review here
What to Do If Malware Has Blocked Your Smartphone (& You Can’t Run an Antivirus Scan)
If malware has blocked your smartphone, you have a couple of options. If you’re using Android, you need to boot your device into safe mode, and either delete any recently installed apps, or factory reset your device.
If you’re using iOS, you can connect your phone to a Mac or Windows PC, and restore your phone via Finder or iTunes.
Click on the relevant option below:
Restore a Blocked Android Device
To access a blocked Android, you first need to boot your phone into safe mode. The steps to do this vary depending on your phone’s model:
- With your phone powered off, press and hold the power and volume-down button. Your phone will either boot into a recovery menu, or directly into safe mode. If it doesn’t, try this step again, but hold the power and volume-up button instead.
If your phone boots into a recovery menu, you can use the volume keys to navigate. Navigate to Safe mode, and press the power button to boot your phone into safe mode.
- With safe mode running, navigate into your phone’s settings. Tap Apps twice, then scroll through your list of installed apps. Uninstall any suspicious apps by tapping on them and then tapping Uninstall.
- Try rebooting your phone normally to see if it starts. If it does, you should run a malware scan following our above steps.
If your phone still doesn’t start, you need to factory reset your device. Follow step 1 above to boot your phone back into safe mode, then follow the steps below:
Back up your data:
- Tap Settings.
- Tap Google.
- Tap Backup.
- Tap Back up now.
Reset your device:
- Tap Settings.
- Tap System & updates.
- Tap Reset.
- Tap Reset phone.
- When asked to confirm, tap Reset phone again.
- Wait for the device to reset to its factory default settings.
Once you’ve done this, you can restore your recent backup. Follow the on-screen steps after the factory reset to restore it. When finished, it’s a good idea to install an antivirus program like Norton so this doesn’t happen again.
You can now move on to our other smartphone security recommendations.
Restore a Blocked iOS Device
To access a blocked iOS device, you need to turn your iPhone off, and connect it via USB to your Windows or Mac computer. Once you’ve done this, follow these steps:
- Open Finder (Mac) or iTunes (Windows).
- Put your iPhone into DFU mode. The steps to do this vary depending on your model. The following works with the latest iPhone models:
- Quickly press the volume-up button.
- Quickly press the volume-down button.
- Hold down the side button. When your iPhone’s screen turns off, hold down the volume down button while still holding the side button.
- Wait about 5 seconds, then let go of the side button only (if you see the Apple logo appear, you held the side button down for too long).
- Nothing will happen, but Finder or iTunes will detect the device in DFU mode.
- Finder/iTunes will automatically detect something is wrong with your phone, and you’ll be given the option to restore it. However, be aware that doing so will delete all of your data.
Either way, once your iPhone is restored, you should be able to restart it normally. When you’ve done this, install a mobile antivirus such as Norton to prevent malware from blocking your phone in future.
Other Smartphone Security Recommendations
You should have followed our above security recommendations by now, and your Android or iOS device should be free from viruses and other malware. However, there are a few more security recommendations you should consider:
- Install a password manager (such as 1Password).
- Install a secure VPN (such as ExpressVPN).
- Enable two-factor authentication (such as biometric login).
- Optimize your phone’s privacy settings.
Installing a password manager (such as 1Password) allows you to store your passwords in a secure vault. You can also store personal data, such as financial information, passport numbers, and driver’s licenses. Password managers store this data using 256-bit AES encryption, meaning hackers can’t steal your data. They also generate and remember super strong passwords, which are impossible to crack using botnets like Mirai.
You should also consider using a good virtual private network (VPN), such as ExpressVPN. VPNs give you a virtual IP address so cybercriminals can’t see your location. The best VPNs also have servers in many countries, which let you access geo-restricted sites or your home Netflix catalog while traveling abroad.
It’s important to enable two-factor authentication (2FA) to stop hackers from accessing your devices or accounts. 2FA locks accounts behind a second form of identification, such as an email address or phone number. Advanced 2FA lets you lock your account behind an authenticator app (such as Authy) or a physical USB key (such as YubiKey). To enable 2FA on Android, open your Google Account, tap Security, Signing into Google, 2-Step Verification, then Get started. On iOS, go to Settings, tap your account name, Password & Security, and then Turn on Two-Factor Authentication.
You should also check your phone’s privacy settings. On Android, open Settings, tap Privacy, and adjust what data individual apps can access. In my tests, I was surprised to find apps like Amazon Music could access my phone’s contact list. If you’re on iOS, open Settings, tap Privacy & Security, and then App Privacy Report. This generates a report with all your iOS apps’ permissions and makes it easy for you to adjust each app’s permissions individually. If you have Norton 360 Deluxe, Norton’s Privacy Monitor gives you a list of data brokers selling your personally identifying information (PII). If you find your PII is being sold, you can send a request to have your info removed from the broker’s database.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can malware infect a smartphone?
Yes, malware can infect a smartphone. Android phones are susceptible to malicious apps containing viruses, ransomware, spyware, and more. iOS phones are at less risk than Android, but you can still visit websites that steal your data, including your financial information and passwords.
That’s why it’s important to have a good antivirus app running. Norton is a great choice — it has tons of features for iOS and Android that can keep your device protected in 2023.
Can malware be installed on Android?
Yes, hackers can install malware on your Android device, which can cause various problems, such as slowing your device down, compromising your data, and even stopping your device from working. Most of this malware is accidentally installed when you download malicious .APK files from outside the Google Play store, but you can also download compromised files from your email or by visiting dangerous websites.
You should never open any emails you don’t trust or download apps from outside the Google Play store. However, if you’re tech-savvy and want to download third-party apps, remember to always have a good antivirus app, such as Norton, running in the background.
Can malware be installed on iOS?
You can’t get malware on iOS, but that doesn’t mean iOS users are completely safe. You can still visit dangerous websites, be victim to network attacks, have your data stolen, or have your online accounts breached.
Since iOS devices can’t get malware and Apple doesn’t allow security apps to perform virus scans, iOS antiviruses don’t include a malware scanner. However, antivirus apps on iOS come with various other features that protect your device from security threats. For example, Norton Mobile Security comes with excellent web protections and dark web monitoring, which alerts you if it finds any of your personal information on the dark web.
What happens if you get malware on your phone?
If you get malware on your phone, various things can happen. Your phone may run more slowly than usual, you may be issued annoying ads, or you may have apps you don’t recognize appear on your home screen. Cybercriminals may also be stealing your data — which can include your financial information, social insurance number, and more.
Therefore, if you get malware on your smartphone, you should remove it immediately. Follow our above steps which will take you through how to remove malware from smartphones using an antivirus program such as Norton.