How to Remove Mobile Malware & Keep Your Device Safe

Andrew Sanders Andrew Sanders

When it comes to malware, a lot of us have this idea that our phones and tablets are somehow less vulnerable to viruses than our laptops, PCs, and servers. Unfortunately, that’s far from the truth.

Our phones are just as vulnerable to malware and ransomware by malicious programs similar to those that infect computers; mobile phones may even present a larger attack surface due to their abundance.

One of the most common ways for your computer to contract a virus is what’s known as a drive-by-download – you visit a legitimate-looking website that’s infected with malware and receive a virus that infects your browser without your knowledge. Since people spend more time browsing the internet on their phones than on their PCs, their mobile phones are that much more vulnerable.

In addition, mobile phones are vulnerable to an attack vector that traditional PCs tend to lack – malicious apps. This is when a legitimate-seeming app on the app store is actually infected with malicious code. Even iOS phones are vulnerable to malicious applications – as in the case of the now infamous XCodeGhost incident. These applications can spy on every button press you make on your phone, every message you receive, and every call you make. They can even control your phone remotely!

How do I Detect Mobile Malware?

You may have a mobile malware infestation if one of these things starts to happen on your phone:

  • You receive a notification saying that your phone is locked and that you must pay a ransom in Bitcoin in order to receive control over it again.
  • You begin to notice things like calls, photos, videos, SMS messages, or in-app-purchases being made without your control or permission.
  • Your data usage begins to skyrocket unexpectedly.
  • You notice that there are apps on your phone that you don’t remember downloading, that your mobile browser looks different, or that your homepage has suddenly changed.
  • Your phone becomes slower or more unstable, with apps crashing to the homescreen more often. You may also notice your phone overheating or your battery draining faster.

These may all be signs that malware has infected your phone. A lot of mobile malware relies on monetizing your phone for nefarious purposes – calling expensive long-distance numbers, hijacking its processor to mine bitcoin, or even controlling your phone to create phantom clicks on mobile ads.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to start protecting your phone with recommended mobile antivirus software.

Removing Mobile Malware on iOS and Android

First, a note on mobile antivirus protection for iPhones.

iOS applications are sandboxed – this means that apps you download can’t send data that affects your operating system or other apps. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, unless you are very unlucky and download an application that has been compromised by a malicious developer certificate, you’re safe from traditional malware.

On the other hand, this sandboxing means that security applications developed for iOS can’t scan your iPhone the same way that an antivirus program would scan your computer. These iOS security applications can be useful in other ways – they can prevent you from accidentally giving up control of your phone, encrypt your web traffic so you can’t be eavesdropped on, and even remotely lock and wipe your phone in case it’s stolen.

With that said, security apps for the iPhone won’t be able to help you detect a malicious app. Although these apps are rare, malicious versions of apps like Spotify and Minecraft were recently distributed to iPhone users via the use of hacked developer certificates. If you suspect that you’ve downloaded one of these applications recently, follow the steps below.

Detecting and Removing Malware on iOS

First, check the news. Since it’s very hard to get an infected app onto the app store, there tends to be a lot of publicity when it happens. If you read about an app you’ve downloaded that turns out to be infected, the good news is that you can solve your problems by just uninstalling the app.

If problems persist, you can take a variety of escalating steps. You can start by clearing your browser history and cache in Safari. If this doesn’t work, try restarting your phone. Restoring from an earlier backup should be your next step, followed by a complete factory reset as a last resort.

Detecting and Removing Malware on Android

When you use an Android phone, you tend to be a bit more vulnerable to malicious apps – but fortunately, you can also download Android security apps that can scan your phone and find malware.

Alternatively, it’s easy enough to find malicious apps without a scan. First, turn your phone to Safe Mode – this will entail different steps depending on your phone’s manufacturer. Safe Mode prevent third-party apps from running, so if your phone reverts to normal behavior in Safe Mode, you’re onto something.

Your next step is to look at your apps. If you see an app that you’ve recently installed or don’t remember installing, uninstall these one by one. Some malicious apps may gain administrator access on your phone, preventing them from being uninstalled. Under your phone’s security settings, you can find your device administrators and remove admin access from malicious apps. You can then uninstall them freely.

Protecting your phone is just as important as protecting your desktop or laptop, but it requires different steps. Protect your mobile device now with help from out list of ten best antivirus apps for iPhone and Android phones!

About the Author

Andrew Sanders
Andrew Sanders
Writer on technology, information security, and telecom

About the Author

Andrew is a writer on technology, information security, telecommunications, and more