Whether they’re stealing your data, using your phone to mine cryptocurrencies, or siphoning money out of your bank account, smartphone viruses can be a nightmare.
The word “virus” technically refers to a specific kind of malware that spreads through infected files. However, most people use “virus” to refer to malware in general, so we’ll use the terms interchangeably here.
Luckily, you can remove a virus from your phone pretty easily with antivirus software, such as TotalAV. However, there are other ways to get rid of cyber threats, including uninstalling malicious apps or doing a factory reset.
In this article, you’ll get a complete picture of how malware ends up on your phone, what it does, how to remove it, and how to avoid it in the future.
To start, let’s look at how to find whether your phone has been infected with a virus.
How to know if your phone has a virus?
- Download a reliable antivirus platform. We recommend TotalAV, now 84% OFF!
- Run a full system scan
- Keep real-time protection on to stay protected
- Get TotalAV for the best phone security
Can phones get viruses?
Yes, phones can easily get viruses. Android phones are more susceptible to malware than iPhones, but both can get infected. Here are some of the ways by which malware and potentially unwanted apps/programs can get into your phone:
- Jailbreaking. When you jailbreak your phone to install apps and tweaks that aren’t approved by Apple, you can mistakenly install malicious software as well. Jailbreaking inherently involves bypassing the iPhone’s security restrictions.
- Rooting. Like jailbreaking on iOS, rooting an Android device gives the user more control – at the expense of security features. The same is true for custom ROMs, which give users even more complete control.
- Malicious Google Play Store apps. Although both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store occasionally contain malware, the Play Store contains more total apps and less human screening. Google quickly removes any malicious apps from the Play Store as soon as they’re discovered, but millions of people have already installed malicious apps.
- Third-party app stores. Users occasionally choose to get apps outside of the Google Play Store. Doing this can be dangerous, as these alternative stores aren’t subject to Google’s malware screening.
- Compromised networks. Although this issue isn’t technically malware, it presents similar symptoms. Pop-ups and unexpected ads on insecure sites (HTTP, not HTTPS) are symptoms of a compromised network.
- Stolen Apple ID credentials. Again, this issue is not necessarily malware. However, if a hacker steals your Apple ID credentials, they can do all sorts of things to your devices and accounts, so it’s just as dangerous as actual malware.
- Security bypasses due to old software. New iOS versions nearly always include fixes for critical security issues. Historically, many iOS devices have been compromised through known vulnerabilities that were already patched in newer iOS updates.
- Google account compromise, security bypass due to old software, and nation-state-level hacking all work just the same on Android as they do on iOS.
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How to get rid of virus on your phone
The process of removing a virus is similar on Android and iOS phones, but it isn’t completely the same. To help you out, we made detailed explanations on how to get rid of cyber threats no matter what phone you have. You can use the jump links below to navigate to the right guide:
How to remove a virus from an Android phone
There are multiple ways you can remove mobile malware from your Android. The elimination steps mostly depend on what type of virus has infected your smartphone.
Some malicious programs disguise themselves as regular apps, such as a flashlight, and you can get rid of them by simply uninstalling the application. It's very important to immediately take actions because these malicious programs can compromise both your device's security, and take over your Google and other accounts.
Since it’s not always easy to find what type of malware has infected your phone and where it’s main components are hiding, I strongly advise you to get one of the best Android antiviruses to scan your device for security threats and eliminate identified malware.
However, if you’ve performed an antivirus scan and still notice malware-like symptoms, follow this guide on how to remove viruses from your phone manually:
Step 1: Remove unrecognized apps
If you have recently spotted an app that you didn’t install, there’s a high chance it might be malware. You'll need to clean your phone to ensure that no unfamiliar and potentially harmful apps remain.
You can remove the unrecognized app by following these simple steps: Go to Settings > Apps & Notifications > See all apps > find the suspicious app and uninstall it.
Step 2: Try a different network or connection method
Sometimes, you might experience symptoms which resemble malware-related activity if you’re connected to an insecure network, for instance, public Wi-Fi.
You can try connecting to a different network by going to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi or switching to Cellular data to resolve this problem.
Step 3: Change your Google account password
There’s a strong chance that hackers used malware to hijack your Google account and further compromise your security.
You must change the account password by navigating to Settings > Google > Manage your Google Account.
Then, open the Security tab > Password > Change Password.
Make sure you’re using a completely unique password. For that, you can use a password generator which provides strong passwords with symbols, capital letters, and digits.
Step 4: Add two-factor authentication (2FA)
You can also increase your Android protection by using 2FA which makes it almost impossible for hackers to gain access to your Google account.
You can enable it by opening Settings app > Google > Manage Google Account. Click on the Security tab and select 2-Step Verification under the Signing into Google section.
Extra step: Wipe your Android phone
If none of the above mentioned methods to clean malware from your phone helped, it’s possible that you might need to wipe your Android and reset it to the primary state. In case malicious programs made specific changes on the device’s settings, they’ll be reversed.
Here is a guide showing how to wipe your Android phone:
- Make a backup of your data onto a trusted computer. Don’t rely on Google’s backup features in case it’s also compromised. Plug your device into your computer using a USB cable. In the pop-up, select File transfer/Android Auto, and proceed with file transferring on your computer. The most important files to transfer would be photos and videos located in the DCIM folder, however, think about anything else you have on your phone that you would like to save.
- Reset your phone to factory settings. While these settings might be located in different places depending on your Android device, the most generic steps would be to go to the Settings app > System > Reset Options > Erase all data (factory reset).
How to remove a virus from an iPhone
The most effective way to clean your iPhone from viruses is to employ reliable antivirus solutions for iOS. The security suites can not only remove viruses, but also help you protect your device from future infections.
However, sometimes it’s wise to take some manual actions, so that you’d be sure that your phone is absolutely malware-free. Here are the step-by-step guidelines showing how to remove a virus from your iPhone:
Step 1: Reboot your phone
Simple, unsophisticated viruses which are known as non-persistent malware can be removed with a reboot.
Click and quickly release the volume up button, click and quickly release the volume down button and then, press and hold the power button until the Apple logo appears.
Step 2: Connect to a different network
Some types of malicious programs can find their way into your iPhone if you’re connected to an unprotected network.
Go to Settings > Wi-Fi and connect to a different network that you know is secure. Also, you can try using Cellular to check if the malware-like symptoms persist.
Step 3: Change your Apple ID password
Sometimes, hackers manage to get into your accounts by using malware. If you think this might be the case, you should navigate to the Settings > [Your Name] > Password & Security > Change Password.
Note that it’s important to use unique passwords. Some premium password managers offer a password generator tool which can help you create a strong password and avoid future account takeovers.
Step 4: Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)
This step adds an extra layer of security to your Apple ID and makes it almost impossible to hack.
Go to Settings > [Your Name] > Password & Security > Two-Factor Authentication and enter your phone number which will be used to verify your identity whenever you or someone else tries to sign in.
Extra step: Performing a complete iPhone wipe
If you’ve tried every given method to remove malware and it still persists, you should consider wiping your iPhone. The easiest way to do this is navigating through the Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.
However, in some cases it’s not enough since an advanced malware infection is often highly resistant and even capable of reinstalling itself on the iOS.
Thus, you should follow these guidelines to perform a complete iPhone wipe:
- Make a complete backup of your important data on a PC. Don’t use iCloud Backup, as restoring a backup from iCloud later could bring back the malware. Instead, connect your iPhone to your computer using a USB, Lightning cable, or wifi connection. If you’re using Windows, you’ll simply have to choose Import photos and videos in the pop up. As for Mac users, you can find the connected iPhone in Finder > Locations > your iPhone > Back Up Now.
- Put your device intoRecovery Mode. For this step, you should follow Apple's official instructions since the process is slightly different depending on which generation of iPhone you are using.
- Restore your iPhone to the primary stage. Replug your device to the computer and open iTunes. Then, click on the device button at the top-left corner of the window and select Summary > Restore. Follow the on-screen instructions and wait until your iPhone finishes installing and setting up the iOS.
Alternatively, you can head to Finder > Locations > your iPhone > Restore iPhone.
- Restore your data from the backup you made. Once your iPhone is all newly set up, plug it into your computer and transfer all of the important files from the backup you made back onto your iPhone.
How do I know if my phone has a virus?
The quickest way to find out if your phone has a virus is to run a full system scan with a strong antivirus, like TotalAV. It’s compatible with both Android and iOS devices and is capable of detecting even the most advanced cyber threats.
However, there are other ways you can find out if your phone is infected with a virus. Usually, you should closely monitor your device’s activity and seek suspicious behavior. Here is the list of symptoms you might notice if your phone has a virus:
1. Overheating or battery drain
Some kinds of malware mine cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, click on ads, or perform other nefarious tasks in the background that cause your phone to heat up. The reason behind this is that malicious programs usually employ all of your devices resources and continuously exploit them without any breaks.
Although not all phone overheating is malware-related, this is a fairly common symptom that you shouldn’t ignore. If you’re not sure whether your phone becomes hot because of malware, you should know that crypto-miners and worms can drain your phone’s battery as well.
You can check the state of your battery life by navigating to Settings > Battery > Battery Health on iOS or the Settings app > Battery > Battery Usage on Android. Similarly, in this section you will find out which apps use the most of your battery power.
If the battery-intensive apps are legitimate and you have installed them yourself, you should not worry. Yet, if you notice a suspicious app draining your battery, there’s a high chance that it’s malware.
You should immediately remove the app in the settings section of your phone. Follow this guide to uninstall an app from Android or this one to uninstall an app from iPhone.
2. Unexpected ads, redirects, or pop-ups
Intrusive ads are a result of adware, which is not strictly classified as malware, and instead rests under the name of Potentially Unwanted Application/Program (PUA/PUP). If sites or apps that are normally ad-free or ad-light suddenly become filled with ads, pop-ups, and redirects to sketchy sites, here are some possibilities:
- The service has changed ownership or been compromised.
- Your network is injecting ads into insecure (HTTP) connections.
- Your phone has adware.
Although this particular symptom is somewhat rare on iOS, it used to be quite common on Android. Most of the time — especially when a trusted app is covered by an ad — the issue is caused by adware. If you are an Android user and are currently having problems with unwanted ads, follow this guide on how to remove pop-up ads on Android.
3. Unwanted, suspicious new apps
Finding apps you don’t remember installing is a huge red flag.
Before you start worrying about malware, check to make sure that you’re not signed into a shared iCloud or Google account. Both iOS and Android have features that can sync apps across devices, so it’s possible that you share an account with someone else and they installed the app.
To check whether you're using Family Sharing on iPhone, go to Settings > [your name] > Family Sharing.
On Android, go to Google Play > Account > Family.
If this isn’t the case, malware is a likely explanation for the unwanted apps appearing on their own. To get rid of this issue, run a virus scan. For this, I recommend using TotalAV as it has unmatched malware removal rates and great security features.
If an antivirus software doesn’t help, you’re going to have to back up and restore your Android or iPhone.
4. Extreme Data Usage
Unlike legitimate apps, phone malware doesn’t care about your data plan. If an app you hardly use eats up tons of data or worse, you get a huge phone bill from data usage but can’t find the culprit — you might have a virus.
All you have to do to get rid of this issue is get a mobile security app, such as TotalAV. That’s the most simple way to remove a virus as all you need to do is scan your device and take suggested action.
How to protect your phone from viruses
Phone malware is just like your physical health: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Protecting yourself against malware is not too difficult for most people who aren’t high-value targets, but it takes some forethought:
- Consider installing a strong antivirus, like TotalAV on your phone
- Don’t install apps from third-party app stores
- Don’t jailbreak or root your phone
- Keep your phone updated; If you no longer receive timely software updates, purchase a new phone
- Be careful and exercise caution when installing apps, browsing the web, and following instructions
More antivirus guides from Cybernews:
Can smartphones get malware?
Yes. Just like computers, smartphones can get infected with malware. It can enter the system through infected apps, email attachments, and suspicious links.
Which antivirus program is the best for smartphones?
There are lots of good antivirus apps for mobile phones. If you want the best malware protection possible, you can download TotalAV.
What kind of malware can a phone get?
Can a factory reset remove malware?
Yes. Performing a factory reset on your phone will get rid of nearly all kinds of malware. However, there exist a few advanced kinds of infections like the xHelper Trojan that can survive a factory reset.