How to Remove a Virus or Malware from Your Android Smartphone

A hand holding an Android smartphone

And Avoid Them in the Future

Some rivalries are legendary … Whether it’s Coca-Cola and Pepsi, KFC and Chick-fil-A or Android versus iPhone, certain things are seemingly meant to compete.

When it comes to the battle of the smartphones, Android holds its own. Each year, Android accounts for a significant percentage of smartphone sales. Users love the standard chargers, friendly storage options and app choices that come with Androids.

With the increasing popularity of these phones, there are more types of viruses, malware and spyware that are designed to infect these devices. Even though it’s still somewhat rare to have a virus attack your Android, it is possible, which is why you have to know how to protect yourself.

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What’s a Virus, Anyway?

You may think of malicious software, virus attacks and other detrimental software as being geared towards PCs and other computers, but there are many types that infect phones.

Many of these harmful programs disguise themselves as helpful applications. When they’re downloaded, however, they can memorize your behaviors, exploit your personal information and more. 

Identifying and Removing

A virus is any kind of application that alters the way your phone runs in a negative way. Once a corrupt application is on your phone, it can do things like get your bank account info, steal your contact information and take other pieces of sensitive data from you.

If you suspect your phone isn’t running like it should, the first step is to identify the problem. Which application is corrupting your phone? One fast way to do this is through your settings.

Swipe down on your Android from the top of the screen to bottom with your finger to load a menu. Hit “Settings,” and use the search bar to look at your apps. Tap the “Apps” icon to see all your current applications. Scroll through the list that populates and see if you can figure out which application is creating your issues. In general, big-name apps, like YouTube, are pretty safe. Smaller applications that are less known are more likely to harbor a virus.

Another thing to look out for when you scroll through your application list is a program you don’t remember. Sometimes, a virus will display as its own application at the bottom of your list.

You may notice a file without a name or with a missing icon, which means the app will not show up on your home screen, making it hard to detect. If you find an unknown file, it very may well be the source of your problems. For users who are unsure how to find the app which harbors a virus attack, HelpCloud Mobile Connect can assist you with the troubleshooting process.

As soon as you have identified your problem, you should boot into safe mode. When you’re in safe mode, your phone will run without any third-party applications. Within this mode, your device will be less likely to crash and it might run faster overall.

To enter this mode, hold down your device’s power button until a menu loads. Hold the power off icon down, and your phone will show you a safe mode option. A pop-up message may say something like, “To turn on Safe Mode, the phone will restart and certain apps will be unavailable to help troubleshoot the phone.

When you restart the phone again, Safe Mode will be turned off and all apps will be available.” Click “turn on” to power up safe mode. You’ll know your phone is safe mode because there will be a safe mode icon in one of the bottom corners of your screen.

Again, swipe down across your phone’s screen from top to bottom to launch its menu. Click “Settings” and pull up your apps by typing “apps” or “applications” into the search bar. Once the apps are open, scroll to the app that’s infected. Click on the app’s icon and then select “Force stop” followed by “Uninstall.”

Sometimes, it’s hard to delete an app from your phone. When you’re having issues uninstalling an app, it might be because it has administrator privileges. With administrator rights, an app likely has too much control of your phone, which can be very dangerous.

To make sure a virus isn’t controlling your phone, search for “administrators.” Click on “Phone administrators,” to see what programs have access to these rights. In the event the app you’re worried about is listed, it should be disabled immediately. After the app’s rights have been disabled, you should be able to delete the application from your device following the steps above.

The next thing to do is look at your Android’s trash. If the app is still in your device’s trash, it could continue to cause problems for you. Empty your trash to delete the app once and for all. After all of this, your issues will likely be behind you. If your phone continues to run poorly, you may have identified the wrong app or you might have another infected app on your device.

Other Tips

Sometimes, you do everything you’re supposed to, and your phone still doesn’t run properly. If this sounds like what you’re experiencing, there are a few more things you can try.

First, clear your web browser’s cache. Under “Settings” go to your browser, like Chrome, click “Storage” and “Clear Cache.” People who have been experiencing unwanted pop-up messages and advertisements may fix all their problems simply by emptying the cache.

A more drastic measure you can take is to perform a factory reset. Before you do this, you need to backup your Android. Within your “Settings” menu, click “Backup & reset.”

Next, you’ll go to the “Accounts & Sync” part of your “Settings” menu. Click on “Google,” and decide which items should be backed up. Then, under “Settings,” go to “System,” “Reset Options” and “Erase all data.” You will then be able to start your phone  keep it updated with your most recent backup.

Prevention

Running updated software is one of the best ways to keep technology safe. Every few weeks, open up the “Advanced” section of your phone’s settings. Under “About phone” or “System update,” you’ll want to look at your phone’s status. Whenever a new software update is available, you should download and install it to your phone.

Another good piece of advice is to be wise about where you download from. Just like you don’t want to open a suspicious email, you don’t want to download an app from an unknown source. In general, any app that’s not stored on the Google Play Store should be met with caution.

When you do download an app, regardless of its source, it’s important to think about the permissions it requests. As mentioned above, some applications will ask for administrator access, which likely isn’t crucial for their functioning. Before downloading, look at an app’s permissions to see if you’re comfortable with what data it requires to function.

Another safeguard you can use is an antivirus app. Although not necessary, an antivirus app can be helpful. Generally, you’ll want to pay for your app. Ironically, some free antivirus applications have viruses or malware in their code. A paid offering from a reputable company will likely be best when it comes to protecting your device.

Keeping Your Phone Fast

There are some simple reasons your phone slows down.

Sometimes, it’s because of a virus, but a bad program isn’t always the cause of lag. One cause of a slow phone is unused applications. Keeping many apps on your phone may not seem like it’s doing much harm, but it can significantly reduce your operating speeds. You can even disable pre-installed apps from your settings menu to increase the speed of your phone.

Next, discover where you’re using a lot of space. Under “Settings,” go to “Storage” to see how much of your phone’s memory is being utilized. Often, your images and videos will be clogging up your storage, so you should back this data up and delete it from your device. Otherwise, find out which areas of your phone are using a lot of data and see if you can reduce their usages.

Another helpful resource is Chrome’s data saver. Once you launch a Chrome browser, open the “Settings” and scroll down to “Data saver.” Click this option to enable the feature. Once switched on, data saver will have Google compresses the web pages you visit, reducing bandwidth use and increasing loading speeds.

Disabling auto sync on specific apps can also help increase operating times. Under “Accounts” in the settings menu, you’ll see a list of the apps you’ve downloaded that routinely look for updates.

Although some things, like your Google account, benefit from auto sync, not every one of your apps needs to update automatically. Go through each of your apps systemically and turn syncing off for the apps that you can occasionally update manually.

Last, but not least, is one of the most classic tricks in the book: turn your phone off and on again. When you do this, all apps will close, so slow background applications won’t be harming your phone’s speed.

Moving Forward

There are few things as bothersome as having a virus attack your Android. When a malicious program takes over your phone, you need the right support and knowledge. Luckily, with HelpCloud, any Android user can get the help required to resolve user issues in an efficient manner.

The best in remote support. Connect with us from the comfort of your own home and let us fix the issue.
Erik Fullmer

Director of Marketing

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Erik was raised in many places in a military family but has long since called Utah home. He spends free time in his garden, in the mountains with his dog, and skis…a lot. He is actively earning the necessary certifications and training to become a certified winter mountain guide.

Erik graduated from Utah Valley University in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in Behavioral Science and a minor in Spanish. Additionally, being raised by a German mother, he spent a part of his childhood and also the beginning of his professional career in Germany where he worked as a Digital Strategist for adesta, a locally owned business in Darmstadt. Speaking three languages has opened up the world to him and influences the breadth of topics covered in his articles. He has always held an affinity for the world wide web and its workings, development, history and future.

Being a key player in the development of, and Director of Marketing for HelpCloud, he takes the content displayed and utilized on HelpCloud extremely seriously.