Our Android smartphones and tablets are very personal devices. They’re our digital homes, and we should be just as vigilant about outside invaders as we are with our houses. In the case of Android gadgets, it’s a matter of being aware of malware.
Android is a target for digital criminals thanks to how popular it is worldwide, with Google estimating that there are over 2 billion monthly active Android devices in use. While we can take precautions to protect our smartphones, sometimes malware sneaks in.
While Android malware can be devious, often there are signs and symptoms of its presence. It’s up to us to be aware of what those might be and to take action to protect our phones. Keep in mind there can be differences between Android operating system versions, so you may need to look around for the proper settings when following these tips.
What is Android malware?
Security company Kaspersky Lab reports the number of attacks using malicious mobile software nearly doubled in 2018. While we often think of malicious software in terms of viruses, the big culprit on Android is malware. We just tend to use "virus" as a shorthand nickname for a category of items that may include spyware, ransomware, adware and other apps that are out to compromise your private data.
Signs your Android might have malware
Malware may leave some telltale signs on your device. Be on the lookout for these issues.
You’re blasted with ads: Ads are a fact of life on the internet, but be wary if you notice unusually invasive ads or seemingly random pop-ups. This could be a malware indicator, or it may be a browser hijacker.
The battery is draining too fast: This can be a symptom of multiple possible problems. You may have a legitimate app that’s battery-hungry, or your battery may be past its prime. But it might also be malware working away in the background.
Data use spikes: Some malware apps have been known to use up your internet data. You may notice a curious jump in data usage even though you haven’t changed your phone-use habits.
An unexpected app appears: If any of these previous symptoms makes you suspicious, then you’ll want to take a look at what apps are installed on your phone. Head into Settings, tap on Apps and expand the list to see what’s there. Look for any apps you don’t recognize or don’t remember installing.
A new tactic is for malware apps to install themselves and then disappear. Those leave a telltale blank spot in your app drawer.
How to remove a malware app on Android
If you think you’ve got a malicious app hanging out on your Android device, then it’s time to make it disappear. First, put your phone into Safe Mode, which disables third-party apps. The method for doing this may vary with your phone, but for most it involves holding down the power key and then tapping and holding "Power off." Tap OK when prompted to reboot into Safe Mode.
Now let’s remove the offending app. Open Settings and tap on "Apps & notifications." You may need to tap on the "see all" option for the complete app list. Locate the app and click on "Uninstall." Restart your phone or tablet like normal to return to the regular operating mode.
Protect your Android device from malware
Once you’ve removed an offending malware program, you’ll want to make sure your phone or tablet stays safe and secure. Follow these steps to help keep your Android gadget malware-free:
Use the Google Play Store: The Google Play Protect service runs a safety check on apps from the Google Play Store before you download them. It also scans your device regularly looking for offending apps. It will notify you if it finds one that’s potentially harmful. Google tries to stay vigilant with weeding out bad apps, so make sure you only install apps directly through the Google Play Store.
Install the latest updates: Keep both your Android system and your apps updated in order to take advantage of the latest security improvements.
Consider anti-malware software: There are plenty of options for Android antivirus apps. At their best, these apps can prevent malware attacks and also scan your phone or tablet to locate existing malicious software. Recent research showed that many antivirus options are ineffective, so be sure to go with a known security provider with a good track record.
Protecting your Android device takes a combination of common sense and vigilance. Be aware of the signs of malware and take the steps needed to clean up your phone or tablet.
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