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How to detect a virus on your Android

Psst! If you're looking for the Apple version of this tip, click here.

Android is the most widely used mobile operating system in the world. It currently holds more than 65 percent of market shares globally with over a billion users. As evidenced by the recent spate of trojan viruses, hackers are constantly changing their tactics to trick Android users into installing malware. In this world of mobile attacks, the security of your device is as critical as ever.

As a whole, Androids are a bit more open than Apple products. Their ability to download items directly from the internet leaves your smartphone and tablet more vulnerable, and hackers can easily take advantage of this. Android users can also download, install and remove third-party applications from unreliable sources.

Some tell-tale signs that your Android gadget is infected with malware are sudden slowdowns, spikes in data usage, glitches, ad pop-ups and battery drain.

Surge in data usage

One of the first things to check is your monthly data usage. This is generally located on your statement from your cellphone service provider or when you view your mobile account details online. Compare the amount of data used to data usage from the prior months and if you notice sudden spikes in your data usage even though you haven't really changed your usage patterns, then chances are you are infected.

Adware infected phones usually perform unsolicited clicks in the background to generate profit for cybercriminals. All of these stealthy tactics use up bandwidth and the unauthorized data they consume should be fairly easy to spot.

Unexplained charges

One other sure sign that your Android gadget is infected is by incurring unusual charges on your cellphone bill under the "SMS" category. This happens when your gadget is infected with malware that sends text messages to premium-rate numbers and charges you.

Sudden pop-ups

If you're starting to get annoying pop-up ads and notifications, unwanted reminders and nagging "system" warnings that just won't go away, then your Android phone may have been compromised. Malware can also add bookmarks that you don't want, website shortcuts to your home screen that you didn't create and spammy messages that entice you to click through.

Apart from slowing down your phone and eating away at your data, these intrusive notifications can also install more malware on your phone.

Unwanted apps

Keep an eye out for apps that you don't remember installing. Trojan malware, especially the adware, are known for automatically downloading further malicious apps without your knowledge. Also, cybercriminals try to mimic and clone legitimate apps to trick users into installing them but switch them out with malware via automatic app updates.

Battery drain

As you can imagine, all this unauthorized background activity not only takes a toll on your data usage, it can impact your battery life, as well. These battery-sucking viruses may be disguised in third-party apps and unreliable downloads, and once you install the program onto your Android, you'll start to see the drain almost instantly.

If you start noticing drastic reductions in your battery life and your phone is heating up even when idle, it might be infected with a virus.

Steps you can take to remove an Android virus

If you feel that your Android phone is not operating as it should and you suspect that a virus may have infected it, here are tips that can help you clean up its act.

Remove questionable apps

To review and remove questionable apps, go to Settings >> then Apps or Application Manager. Look through the list and keep an eye out for anything that's odd or unfamiliar. Tap the questionable app you want to get rid of and this will open up the App Info screen. First, remove the app's data cache by hitting "Clear Cache." Next, delete the app's data by tapping "Clear Data." Once these steps are done, click on the "Uninstall" button to remove the app.

Some malicious apps may have administrator access and these are trickier to remove but there are ways.

First, enter your Android phone's Safe Mode. In most Android gadgets, this requires holding the power button until the "Power Off" or "Power Option" menu appears. Simply tap and hold on this menu until the option to reboot in Safe Mode appears then hit OK.

Click here to learn more about Android's Safe Mode.

Once your phone is in Safe Mode, go back to Apps or Application Manager and uninstall any stubborn apps that can't be removed otherwise. Some malicious apps also have managed to install themselves with administrator status so you will need to clear these permissions too.

Go to Settings >> Security >> Device administrators then find the app that you cannot uninstall normally, uncheck the box,  choose "Deactivate" on the next screen >> select OK then return to Apps or Application Manager to uninstall.

After uninstalling your questionable apps, restart your Android phone.

Protect yourself from Android malware

As we say each time, to protect yourself against Android malware, the best practice is to avoid downloading and installing apps from "Unknown Sources." Only download apps from the official Google Play app store and make sure you check user reviews, too, before installing.

Second, be careful with links and websites you visit. Drive-by malware downloads could happen anytime without you knowing it. Don't grant any system permissions to prompts coming from unknown sources.

Mobile ransomware is also on the rise and to protect your files, a good backup plan is a must. For cloud-based backups, we recommend using our sponsor IDrive. You can backup all your gadgets - PCs, Macs, iOS and Android into ONE account for one low cost! Go to IDrive.com and use promo code Kim to receive an exclusive offer.

And lastly, always be vigilant. As seen with trojan malware, things are sometimes not what they seem.

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