How To Remove Malware From Android Mobile Phones and Devices

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If your Android phone has picked up some malware, this can become a source of stress and anxiety because, let's face it, mobile phones are an important aspect of our lives.

In this article, we will discuss how to deal with malware issues for Android devices.

Signs Your Android Phone May be Infected By Malware

Here are the common signs of an Android malware infection:

1. Poor performance

Slow loading times, sluggish response times, and unresponsive screens are just a few examples of malware affecting your phone's performance.

2. Battery drains quickly

Malware attacks require a constant exchange and manipulation of data files within your phone. This requires a lot of power - and naturally, all of this power comes from the battery of your Android device.

For instance - Cabir, which is one of the oldest malware programs, can completely drain the battery of a modern mobile phone in less than three hours!

3. Lots of pop-ups

Ad malware is a type of Android malware that generates annoying pop-up ads while browsing the internet, using a search engine or using an app. The goal of these ads is to trick you into allowing certain apps to access your personal data.

So if you frequently see lots of frustrating pop-up messages on your Android phone, you probably have a malware infection.

4. Mysterious apps appear on your device

If you see apps on your phone that you do not recognise, then you should:

  • Immediately uninstall the apps in question
  • Scan your phone for malware files
  • Delete all malware files that you find
  • Take steps to protect your phone from future attacks

5. Large phone bills

If your monthly phone bills keep increasing without good reason, this indicates malware is using your data usage allowance to send or receive large data files across the internet.

6. Inability to make phone calls

If you can't make any phone calls from your mobile phone,  it is likely your phone has been infected with some malicious software.

7. Can't access certain websites

Once a malware program infects an Android device, it may block access to certain websites - especially those concerning computer security.

8. Missing or Duplicate Files

This could be a symptom of a malware program changing the file structure of your phone.

How to Find Malware on Android Mobile Phones and Devices

The first step to fighting malware programs is to find them. The easiest way to do this is to use a trustworthy security app to scan your phone for malware and computer viruses.

ESET has developed an antivirus for Android solution. The free version of our ESET Mobile Security service constantly scans your mobile phone to detect those pesky malware threats.

You can try the premium version of our service for 30 days at no cost to you. During this time, we will provide you with these extra security services:

  • Anti-theft technology
  • Payment protection to safeguard your financial transactions
  • Call filtering (so no mare nuisance sales calls)
  • Scheduled antivirus scans

You can download your free version of ESET Mobile Security on the Google Play Store.

How to Remove Malware from Android Devices

Here is how to get rid of Android malware in five easy steps.

Step 1: Reboot your phone in Safe Mode

Safe Mode allows you to operate your phone with only the most basic of operational files (i.e. without the use of third-party apps). This will help you isolate and uninstall any malicious apps or malware files.

Here's how to activate the safe mode of your mobile phone:

  1. Press and hold down the power button
  2. On your screen, tap and hold the 'Power' icon
  3. You will see a 'Safe Mode' icon. Tap on it
  4. Your phone will then reboot itself into Safe Mode. In fact, after the reboot, you will see a 'Safe Mode' watermark in the bottom left corner of the screen

Step 2: Get rid of suspicious apps

Once you are in Safe Mode, select 'Settings' (or 'Security Settings') then and 'Apps' (or 'App Manager').

Go through the list of apps. If you find any apps that are suspicious or unfamiliar - you should select them and then uninstall them. It might also be a good idea to uninstall any apps you are no longer using. Make sure to pay particular attention to your recently downloaded apps.

If you can't uninstall a suspicious app, go back into 'Settings' and then choose the option that deals with phone administrators (this will either be 'Device Admin Apps' or 'Device Administrators'). Deactivate any suspicious administrators you see in the list - then try again to uninstall any unwanted apps.

To return your mobile phone to normal mode, press and hold down the power button. Afterwards, tap on the 'Reboot' icon.

Step 3: Reset your browser to default settings

If your device either: (a) keeps redirecting you to unwanted websites or (b) keeps generating unwanted pop-up ads - then you will need to restore your web browsers to their default settings (i.e. the factory settings).

Here is how you can restore a Google Chrome browser to its default settings:

  1. Go into 'Settings' and then 'Apps' (or 'App Manager')
  2. Select the Chrome app
  3. Tap on 'Storage' and then 'Manage Space'
  4. Tap 'Clear All Data'.
  5. Your phone will then ask if you want to delete all Chrome data. Tap on 'OK' to confirm

Step 4: Clear out your downloads folder

Most Android phones have been designed to be very 'internet friendly'. Consequently, these phones will frequently download various files from the internet to improve web functionality.

If you have an Android phone, your phone might have inadvertently picked up some malware over time. Go into the 'Downloads' folder of your mobile phone and delete any suspicious, unfamiliar or useless files.

Step 5: Install anti-malware software

Once your android device is free of malicious files, you must protect your device from future malware attacks and virus threats.

For example, ESET’s antivirus for Android service will scan your phone for the latest cyber threats.

ESET has been developing cybersecurity solutions for over 30 years. Our 13 research and development centres across the globe enable us to service the IT security needs of over 110 million customers and over 400,000 businesses.

ESET security software even:

  • Protects the Google Play Store against cyberattacks
  • Powers the detection and notification feature of Google Chrome
  • Enables Chronicle (which is part of the Google Cloud Platform) to validate the existence of cybersecurity threats and incidents

Here is what Dave Kleidenmacher, Head of Android Security and Privacy at Google, has to say about us: "Partnering with a respected member of the cybersecurity industry like ESET will enhance the protection of the Google Play ecosystem."

Protect Your Andriod Phone and Devices Against Malware

Here's how you can protect your Android devices against malware attacks:

1. Keep your phone up-to-date

Ensure your phone has downloaded all updates concerning its operating system and apps (especially web browsers).

2. Be careful with your passwords

Never use the same password for different apps or online accounts. We suggest always using a 'strong' password (i.e. all your passwords should contain a random combination of numbers, symbols, punctuation characters, upper case letters and lower case letters). A good password manager will help you with this.

Clifford Stoll (an American astronomer, author and teacher) once shared the following advice about passwords: "Treat your password like your toothbrush. Don't let anybody else use it, and get a new one every six months."

3. Always proceed with caution

Never click on links (including email attachments) from unfamiliar sources. Similarly, avoid downloading apps from unfamiliar websites. Only install apps from reputable sources like the Google Play Store.

4. Be careful of how you access the Internet

Never use an unsecured Wi-Fi connection, especially in a public place like a bar or gym. It is good to invest in a good VPN service to protect your phone's connection to the internet.

5. Protect your children

If you have a young child who frequently uses your phone (for games, homework, etc.), you should think about parental control for Android devices. ESET has a parental control app that allows you to:

  • Set appropriate filters for your apps and games
  • Establish strict time limits (this will prevent the problem of excessive screen time)• Set budgetary limits for apps and online games
  • Instantly block access to unsuitable and malicious sites on the internet

6. Anti-Malware Removal Software for Android Devices

The software you choose should include as many of the following security features as possible:

  • Anti-virus software - A crucial tool to help you remove viruses from your phone
  • Anti-phishing - This will help you stay clear of phishing URLs that exist on the internet
  • App lock - This helps you to control who has access to your apps
  • Call blocking - This will allow you to block unwanted telephone calls
  • SMS blocking - This will block and highlight any incoming text messages that are suspicious
  • Privacy adviser - This will let you know when an app is trying to transfer too much of your data to an external source
  • Remote location - If someone steals your phone, this feature uses GPS technology to find your phone
  • Safe browsing mode - This scans web pages in real-time to prevent access to malicious apps and websites


What kind of damage can malware on Android phones cause?

In short, malware can cause a lot of damage. Consider a few of the most common types of malware attacks:

  • Mobile Ransomware - With this type of attack, hackers use malware to encrypt the data on a mobile phone. The phone owner then needs to pay a ransom (usually in Bitcoin) for the data to be unencrypted. This malware is the most prevalent cyber threat against businesses and companies
  • Banking Malware - The goal of this malware is to steal financial data from your mobile phone and transfer it to a hacker's computer
  • Mobile spyware - This type of malware will quietly transfer personal data (including account details and passwords). Eventually, you might notice that something has gone wrong, but by then, it may be too late.

In 2021, thousands of phones in Australia were infected with a malware program called "Flubot", which gave hackers access to phone owners' personal data (including credit card details), intercepted SMS text messages, and opened web browser pages without the user's consent.

Do you need anti-malware and antivirus software for Android devices?

We believe that anti-malware and anti-virus software is essential for Androids, especially if you run a business, for several reasons:

  • The recovery time from a single malware attack can be as long as 50 days
  • In 2019, the average cost of a malware attack on a U.S. business was $2.4 million per year
  • In 2019, almost 10% of U.S businesses experienced at least one cyberattack every week

Also, consider the following unsettling facts and statistics:

  • 98% of all malware targets are Android devices
  • Almost 50% of malicious apps on mobile devices remain hidden
  • 46% of all credit card and debit card information has been stolen because of malware
  • Almost 50% of malware attacks are aimed at small businesses (probably because 90% of small businesses are ready and willing to cut back on their IT security budgets)
  • On 26 January 2004, the MyDoom computer virus infected 10% of emails sent in America. The pervasiveness of the virus even managed to increase global loading times of web pages by a significant 50%

What is the best anti-malware removal software for Android devices?

ESET Mobile Security provides all-around security protection for all Android devices - including devices made by Samsung, Google and HTC. The ESET service:

  • Uses antivirus software to protect your phone from malicious apps, nuisance phone calls, phishing and malware attacks
  • Scans any USB-connected device (like an external hard drive) as a safeguard against malware infections
  • Keeps updated with the latest malware developments by using cloud-based technology to maintain a digital library of malware samples

How can I remove ad malware on Android?

Ad malware is a type of Android malware that aims to constantly show unwanted advertisements - usually in the form of irritating pop-up messages that try to direct you to unsafe web pages.

In addition, ad malware programs can result in reduced phone performance, slower internet access and restricted use of all web browsers.

If your phone has been infected with an ad malware program - you could try to deal with the problem by restoring your phone to its factory settings. However, this will not always work, especially if the ad malware has infected your phone's 'core files'.

The best way to remove ad malware from an Android device is to use a dedicated security program, such as ESET Mobile Security, created specifically for mobile devices.

Final Thoughts

For the computing and digital industry, the problem of malware programs is an ever-growing problem.

Mark Bowden, author of Worm: The First Digital World War, wrote the following interesting observation: “But modern malware is aimed less at exploiting individual computers than exploiting the Internet. A botnet-creating worm doesn’t want to harm your computer; it wants to use it."

But not all hope is lost.

The fight against Android malware is all about prevention and vigilance. Make sure to invest in some good security software for your phone and be careful with how you use your mobile phone to access the internet.

Also, we suggest that you always back up your mobile phone data in two different locations (e.g. you could back up your data via two different cloud storage providers). This will lessen the emotional impact of future malware infection as you can access your files elsewhere if they are lost or compromised.