Learning how to remove a virus from your phone may seem unnecessary until your phone becomes infected and you have no idea what to do next.
Your phone is home to a lot of precious data like chat logs, memories derived from videos, photos, and more. Unfortunately, it is also vulnerable to malware and viruses, which can steal your precious data and even private information such as account passwords and bank account numbers.
Malware can also use tracking software to track your location and activity without you being aware of it. What if someone was using malware tracking software to track you?
On the off-chance you are infected with malware or a virus on your phone or tablet, you should know how to get rid of it. Fortunately, this guide will explain step-by-step how to remove a virus on your phone and wipe it after an attack. Read on to protect your phone and data from vicious viruses and malware.
Table of Contents
How to Tell if Your Phone Has a Virus
There are a few ways to tell when your phone has been infected by a virus. Some smartphone viruses and malware may seem harmless but prove more beneficial to the developers, whereas others may be quite vicious. For example, last year, at least 10 million Android devices were infected by a particular malware dubbed "HummingBad," according to cybersecurity company Check Point (as reported by CNET). What HummingBad, a malware that was issued by a team of developers at Yingmob, did was infect victim's phones when people visited particular websites. What it did was, as stated by Check Point:
"The first component attempts to gain root access on a device with... rootkit [software] that exploits multiple vulnerabilities. If successful, attackers gain full access to a device. If rooting fails, a second component uses a fake system update notification, tricking users into granting HummingBad system-level permissions."
Apparently, this type of access produced fraudulent ad revenue through the forced downloading of apps and the clicking of certain ads. The amount of ad revenue racked up? $300,000 per month. Nevertheless, there are several ways to tell whether your phone is infected with a virus.
Does My Phone Have a Virus?
You'll typically be able to tell if your phone has a virus with one of these signs. Here's how to check if your phone has a virus.
You can tell that your phone has been infected if your data usage has increased dramatically without a known cause. You can always check your data usage on your cell phone provider's website or via the settings of the device.
- There is a shady-looking program on your phone (or you downloaded a shady app).
Almost all Android smartphone viruses are delivered through apps installed on your device, so you should be careful with what you download. According to BleepingComputer, the most prominent malware as of 2016, the HummingBad Android malware, can be found on websites and over 200 apps, but also within apps discovered on the official Google Play App Store. Due to the widespread malware potency, the infected count has risen to 85 million devices worldwide as of late January 2017.
- You're experiencing humongous slowdowns.
Just like on a PC (or very rarely on Mac), a virus that lurks in the background will be draining your available resources. If your phone is experiencing a major slowdown, even after restarting or shutting down your phone, then your device has probably been infected.
Related: How to Speed Up Slow Internet
Can Phones Get Viruses?
That's a good question. Referring to one of Lookout Security's blog posts, the company has not seen malware that replicates itself like a PC virus can. So technically, no. However, the malware possible on Android smartphones and devices can infect you in a myriad of ways.
So What Is Malware?
Malware is short for malicious software. It infects your device, controls the system, and steals private information, ranging from account access information to bank account and credit card numbers.
Types of Viruses
Conficker Worm is a computer virus that targets Microsoft Windows operating system. It allows its creators to install software on infected machines remotely. Once it finds a vulnerable computer, the Conficker Worm turns off your backup service, deletes backups from restore points, disables your security, blocks access to security websites, and opens your phone or device to get additional programs.
A ransomware virus is a malware that can sneak into your operating system and hold your data hostage. For example, the Moneypak virus is a type of ransomware virus. The Moneypak virus will usually show up on your screen and say something about the FBI and you having to pay money to unlock. Do not fall for it! There are plenty of virus protection software that can help you scan for and get rid of ransomware.
A Pop-up Virus looks like a pop-up ad while you're searching on the Internet. For example, you might see a pop-up ad message saying you won a prize; meanwhile, the pop-up will infect your device with spyware once you click on it. Beware of pop-up viruses by not clicking on pop-up ads online.
A Trojan Horse is a virus that tries to hack into your device by pretending to be a safe program or software. Trojan Horses mislead users, with the intention to infect and steal their private information.
Read More: Hackers are not only a threat towards the PC and Mac but also towards phones. We have a guide on protecting your phone from hackers.
How to Remove a Virus on Your Phone
Though there are many ways a virus can infect your phone, there are also plenty of ways to get rid of a virus on the off-chance one slips by your phone's security. There is an array of phone virus remover tools available at your fingertips to remove the virus if you get stuck with one. Need a free antivirus program? Free and paid phone virus cleaner apps are available through the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.
Below I'm going to present you with a step-by-step guide on how to remove a virus from your phone or tablet, whether you have an Android or iOS device. I will also list several apps you can use to get rid of any pesky viruses or malware.
How to Remove a Virus from an Android Device
Here's an interesting factoid for you to chew on:
According to a Forbes report, 97 percent of mobile phone malware was on Android. The number may be similar today. It makes sense, considering Android is more PC-like (Android is based off Linux, after all) compared to iOS. PCs are more likely to be infested with viruses and other types of malware.
With such statistics on Android malware and viruses, you need to be armed and prepared with the best anti-virus programs if a virus infection or malware slips by. Here is how to remove a virus from Android using Android apps and settings.
Virus Removal for the Android OS
1. Ensure that you are protected from viruses and any sort of malware.
There are some great apps out there that will protect you, which I will list these toward the end of this article. For example, on-access scanning apps work in the background and constantly scan your phone for malware and viruses. On the other hand, it is possible to pick up a virus infection that is not be detected by such Android apps.
In this case, be sure that you don't install apps outside of the Play Store unless you are 100 percent certain of the app and its reputation. With that being said, also be careful with what you download on the Google Play Store. Though I've already listed the HummingBad malware having been wrapped inside particular apps on the Google Play Store, there are other examples to take into consideration. For instance and according to ZDNet, developers have been disguising the bank account-stealing Marcher Trojan as Super Mario Run before the official app even released on Android.
So be sure to do some research, read reviews (honest reviews, in particular), check developer websites, and review the app's permissions if you even think about downloading said app.
2. Run an Android Virus Scan
While you should definitely have anti-malware software for on-access scanning on Android, a virus could still slip past your device's defenses. In that case, you should run an Android virus protection app to determine whether or not your phone is infected. There are plenty of good ones out there - in fact, many providers, such as Verizon, offer their own great antivirus programs.
3. Reboot your device in Safe Mode
So it turns out you do have a virus on Android. Well, you should then reboot your device in Safe Mode, just like you would on a PC when your PC is infected with a virus. This prevents third-party apps, especially the one that would contain said malware, from running in the background. The process of booting your Android phone into safe mode may differ with the device. On Android versions 4.1 or later (Jellybean, which you should at least have), you can easily boot into safe mode by doing the following:
1. Hold down the power button. Holding down the power button should prompt a window where you can click to Restart your computer. Click Restart or set your computer into Emergency Mode.
2. To get in Emergency Mode, press and hold "Power Off" until a prompt displaying "Reboot to Safe Mode" appears.
3. Press "Restart"
4. On your Android, open up your "Settings" menu
5. Select "Applications"
6. Open up "Application Manager"
Look through the apps list to detect your Android virus. If you're unsure of the name of the virus you downloaded, just uninstall anything that looks shifty to you (if need be, do some research of the app via your computer or another device).
Please note that in the screenshots listed, the phone does not contain a virus.
1. Tap on the malicious software app (for example purposes, let's pretend that Amazon Music is a malicious app, even though it isn't)
2. Tap on "Uninstall"
Please note that the uninstall button may be grayed out because the virus has given itself administrative privileges. If that is the case, you need to do the following:
1. Exit the "Application Manager"
2. Tap on "Settings"
3. Press "Security" or "Lock Screen and Security"
4. Tap either "Device Administrators" or "Other Security Settings"
5. Depending on your Android OS, tap on "Phone Administrators"
From there, you should see a list of apps with a Phone Administrator status. Simply either uncheck or toggle the administrator status off and when you're shifted to the next screen (let's say e-mail is the virus), tap on "Deactivate."
From there, you should be able to uninstall the app. You can then restart the device (by selecting Power Off, then turning it back on, but you may have to set your theme again) so you no longer are in Safe Mode. Your phone should be safe from the threatening virus. However, just to be safe, you should clean your browser history and cache, as well as delete your cookies, which we have a guide for. That's how to remove a virus from Android.
If All Else Fails, Use Factory Reset
So you may groan at this idea because you will lose your current apps and some data. That is why it's recommended to backup your data regularly, just in case your device is infected with a virus. Here's how to activate factory reset:
1. Go to "Settings"
2. Select "Backup and Reset"
3. Choose "Factory Data Reset"
4. Finally, choose "Reset Phone"
Can Android Phones Get Viruses?
Well, as mentioned earlier, they aren't viruses so much as malware, but yes, you can get them, mainly by downloading apps.
How to Get Rid of an iPhone Virus
iPhone viruses are quite rare; in fact, they are pretty much unheard of. Unfortunately, there is still a chance your iPhone could be infected with malware.
Can iPhones Get Viruses?
The iPhone is known for its strong security, and for good reason.
According to eSecurity Consultant Mike Rogan via LinkedIn: "It is widely known that Apple's iOS devices are built in such a way that no file is given access to any of the system's directors. Not even its neighbors. This is actually the reason why it's not possible to upload documents saved in third party applications using another app (i.e. uploading Word documents by using Safari), nor is it possible to access any file created in a third party app from another app - no excuses - even if Apple itself created that iPhone app; even if that iPhone app was built-in on the device (i.e. the Mail app). All folders are hidden in all Apple devices except for the MacBooks."
Because the system is so complicated, it serves as an inconvenience to its users, meaning that viruses have a harder time infecting the system.
Can iPads Get Viruses?
Just like the iPhone, iPads can get viruses too, but there is a highly small chance of infections happening.
How to Remove a Virus from the iPhone
Unlike the Android phone, and as reported by Tom's Guide, the Apple iPhone doesn't exactly need antivirus protection. Apparently, Apple has made their products so that you don't need an anti-malware software for protection. Their products are "designed with the iOS platform with security at its core."
In fact, the iOS doesn't even let antivirus apps work because antivirus apps actually create potential vulnerabilities. So if you do end up with an iPhone virus, then you should know the appropriate steps to take.
To protect your iPhone or iPad from viruses, it is recommended that you do not jailbreak either of them. However, if your device is infected with a virus, you may experience instability with the infected apps. These apps could crash or perform other odd behaviors.
Nevertheless, here are the steps on how to remove a virus from your iPhone:
If the infected app is causing the problem, here is how you uninstall the app the quick and easy way:
1. Locate the app you would like to delete
2. Tap and hold the icon until it wiggles
3. Tap the X in the corner of the app to delete
Clear Your Browser History and Other Data
You may need to clear your history and cache. Don't know how to do that? Follow this guide.
Backup Your iPhone and Wipe your iOS Device
- First, make sure your personal data is backed up.
- Go to "Settings"
- Tap on "General"
- Tap on "Reset"
- Press "Erase All Contents and Settings"
- Enter your passcode and confirm the process
- Restart your iOS device and set it up
- Sign into iCloud and restore your previously backed up data
You can find additional information and step-by-step instructions in our How to Restore an iPhone guide.
Apps to Get Rid of Viruses
There are plenty of virus removal apps for Android, but I wouldn't recommend an antivirus app for iPhone or iPad. Here are the best antivirus apps out there for Android:
The Best Free Virus Removal App
360 Security - Antivirus Boost
This is what you should consider if you don't mind free (and are not a fan of your provider antivirus) apps. Not only is 360 Security - Antivirus Boost one of the most popular and highly-rated Android apps existent, but it comes with a ton of features to help protect your device. You'll be able to scan your system for malware, enable real-time protection, and sports anti-theft protection.
Other Antivirus Apps
Of course, there are plenty of other antivirus apps to take into consideration, which include (with their own Google Play links) but are not limited to:
Avira Antivirus Security
It's newer, but that doesn't mean it's terrible. Avira actually is a strong antivirus fighter and comes with a variety of unique features such as blacklisting, anti-theft, privacy, and more.
Read More: Interested in more privacy for your phone and PC? You should then read our review of the what we consider to be the most secure and feature-packed VPN services.
Avast Mobile Security
Avast is a strong contender in antivirus apps, having moved from PC to mobile phones. It boasts a plethora of features, especially when you opt into the Pro edition, which includes remote data recovery, geofencing, ad detection, and more.
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware software is a free software for iOS, PCs, and Macs that stops all types of viruses from infecting your device. It will scan and repair your operating system if you ever run into trouble.
Bitdefender Antivirus Free
Bitdefender Antivirus Free is very simple and light - qualities that are attractive for several users. There are two features attached to the Bitdefender Antivirus Free app: scan and clean. That's it.
While it's no fun to have a virus on your phone, you should rest assured that - as long as you backup your data properly - you shouldn't lose any important data.
Sometimes a virus may be simple to rid of; other times, it will take more than just a simple uninstall to remove the virus. That is when you need to direct your attention to the factory reset.
Overall, you should be prepared for a virus. You should also be committed to safe browsing and app downloading practices on your device.
Many of the antivirus apps we suggested also have their own antivirus software suites available on Mac and PC. You can compare the best antivirus software here. You should practice safe browsing habits and teach your children important cell phone safety tips.
Viruses also serve as a door to identity theft. You should also take a moment to read our review of the best ID Theft Protection services.