Can your phone get a virus?

Android: how to remove a virus from your mobile devices

Birgit Götz, Marie Black

Android viruses are becoming more common. We'll tell you how to remove a virus from Android and how to avoid Android malware in the first place.

EnlargeViruses are becoming more common on Android devices
© Fotolia, Bits and Splits

We explain what to do if your phone doesn't behave as usual.
The number of viruses targeting Android is increasing every day. There are plenty of them. Do you think that they can only slow down your smartphone or affect its functionality? Current malware is much more sophisticated.

For example, malware like Eventbot hides itself in such a way that you don't even know it's there. But behind the scenes, your data could be stolen, fake reviews posted on your behalf, and your bank account potentially emptied.

You may also have less sophisticated malware on your smartphone, such as a web browser redirecting to a porn site or generating questionable full-screen pop-ups.

But what if things are going on in the background that you don't know about?

When a device starts to behave differently than usual, it is usually not caused by malware, but rather by the ever-growing accumulation of junk files that eventually slows down the entire system - which you can also fix by performing a factory reset.

To tell the truth, Android viruses are very rare if you get your apps from the Google Play Store or any other reputable app store. Looking outside the web and maybe installing APK files from unknown websites, open your device to some serious threats. Even the Play Store isn't always a safe haven: Google's bouncer technology isn't a solid guarantee that every app you install is malware-free.

In September 2019, it was confirmed that the Joker malware had been downloaded more than half a million times from Google Play. The virus was found in 24 apps (all of which have now been removed) where it has logged users into premium subscription services without their knowledge.

You can do that:

Method 1: clear cache

If you see pop-ups or redirects, it is best to clear your browser cache.

This is less drastic than a system reset that will get rid of Android viruses as well.

Method 2: boot into Safe Mode

Android antivirus programs like Bitdefender Mobile Security are a good idea as they can prevent malware-laden programs from getting onto your phone in the first place. You can find more recommended Android antivirus tools in this post.

If you still know when the trouble started with your smartphone, you can remove the malicious app manually. You will almost certainly need to enter Safe Mode first because it will prevent third party applications from running. If you try to remove an infected application in normal mode, you will likely be denied permission.

You can get into safe mode either by pressing and holding the power button - then "Safe mode" appears, or by holding down the volume key "quieter" when starting up the smartphone, then "Safe mode" appears at the bottom left. If both of these don't work, google the make and model of your smartphone for the instructions for safe mode.

Go to Apps in Settings and look for suspicious applications in the list - those that you can't remember downloading or that don't look like a real Android service. Click on the name of the app to open the corresponding app info page.

If it isn't a pre-installed app, you should see an Uninstall button. Press this. If that doesn't work (it's grayed out), the app has probably given itself administrator rights, which you can deactivate under Settings> Security & Location> App Permissions.

Now you need to restart the device one more time to get out of Safe Mode.

If your smartphone is still slow, it could also be due to the age of the device or a new software update that does not work one hundred percent with everything.

How to Avoid Android Viruses and Malware

- Don't install any applications that you don't have from Google Play If you don't know what you're doing, this feature should be off by default, but be sure to check. Open your browser apps (Chrome, Firefox, etc.) and scroll down in the app info. "Install unknown apps" should say "not allowed".

Do you actually want to install an application from a source outside of Google Play, such as Google Play? For example, from another app store or an APK file attached as an attachment to an email or other message, you need to be absolutely certain that it is legal and from a legitimate source.

- Avoid cloned apps: 99 percent of the time, you can be sure of apps from the Google Play Store. But malicious code has also been found there. Avoid downloading seemingly cloned applications from unknown developers.
- Check app permissions: Regardless of where you are installing an application from, check the required permissions before clicking Install. Never allow an app device administrator permission as this will prevent deletion. And does a video player really have to see your contacts? You can also check online reviews and search the developer's website to see if it's a real vendor or something dubious.

- Keep Android up to date: The latest version of the Android operating system won't necessarily be available for your smartphone or tablet, but you should make sure that it is as up-to-date as possible.

- Install an anti-virus application: You don't need to install an antivirus program on Android. But if you feel better about it, it can make perfect sense, especially since these applications often have other useful functions as well.

This post was first published by our English colleagues on

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