Malware on Android – prevention, recognition and removal

Android users seem to be falling victim to malware more and more. What is this anyway and, more importantly, how do you get rid of it? Here’s everything you need to know about Android malware.

In general, Android is very safe, but no operating system is infallible. In other words, you can always fall victim to a virus. Recently, malware viruses in particular have been popping up. In recent months, for example, the variants Joker, FluBot, and GriftHorse have passed by.

So it’s high time to get to the bottom of this subject, starting with a definition: what are we actually talking about? Malware stands for malicious software and is an umbrella term. Some malware variants try to steal money, for example, while others (try to) make off with personal data.

The common denominator is that malware invades your smartphone and then gets to work. Usually, malware does this by hiding as a trojan horse in what appears to be a legitimate app. Once you install it, the virus has free rein and can start nesting.

Malware can also spread in other ways. For example, FluBot, a well-known virus that is currently making a comeback, spreads via SMS.

The motivation behind the malware is always the same: money. Virus creators are after money and try to do that, for example, by imitating your banking environment, hoping that you won’t notice that it’s a fake. As soon as you have logged in, the malware makers know your login details and can make off with your money.

How to prevent Android malware?

Age-old advice applies surprisingly often to modern situations, like today. After all, when it comes to malware, prevention is much better than cure. By taking a few simple precautions, you significantly reduce the chances of your Android smartphone becoming infected. For example, you can do this:

Always update your apps immediately. App developers do everything they can to make their programs as safe as possible.
Make sure your Android phone is running the most recent security update. To do this, go to the Settings app, choose ‘System’, and select the ‘Software update’ button.
Only download apps from the official app store, the Google Play Store.
Do not open dubious emails and websites (and especially do not press the ads!).

Unfortunately, it is still quite difficult to find out whether your phone is infected with malware. In most cases, you only find out when it’s too late (for example, when you suddenly encounter a strange transfer on your bank statements). But, you can watch out for certain things.

For example, if your phone slows down overnight, this could be a warning sign. Also, pay attention to the behavior of apps. It is a well-known phenomenon that Android malware causes your browser to be redirected at random moments. Just when you want to go to a certain website, the browser automatically sends you to another site.

Also, don’t forget to check your list of apps. Do you suddenly see a strange title among them? Chances are malware has something to do with it. Other possible symptoms are a fast-draining battery and intrusive ads that pop up randomly.

Android malware removal

In most cases, your malware-infected phone is still usable. However, it is important to remove the infected app(s) as soon as possible. Are you sure your device is infected? Then turn off your smartphone because that way the app has no chance to do any further damage. Check with yourself if you have installed a new app recently: this might be the cause of the problem.

Also, try to google the symptoms of the Android malware. There is a good chance that you are not the first one with the problem and someone on the Internet has written a step-by-step guide to put things in order. In any case, it is important to remove the infected app. You do this by booting into safe mode:

Turn the device back on as you are used to;
As soon as it starts up, press and hold the power button;
Then also press and hold the ‘Power’ button and indicate that you want to boot into safe mode.
Booting a device in safe mode does not allow you to use third-party apps, but only the apps that were already installed at purchase. Once your phone is back on, go to settings, tap ‘Apps and notifications’, and go to the list of all apps. Find the infected app and delete the app.

Protecting your Android device for the future

Do you suspect that other apps have also been infected, e.g. because you were shown strange advertisements? Then uninstall those apps as well, and reinstall them later if necessary. Once you’re done, turn off your device and restart it in normal mode. Does everything seem normal again? Then you have successfully removed the Android malware.

Now it’s time to prevent further infections. To do this, install a good anti-malware app on your Android phone. Highly recommended is Malwarebytes, which protects you against malware, ransomware, and other malicious software. For example, you get a notification as soon as you are about to open a dubious link.

Thank you for reading!