Malware is out to get you. It’s a sad and unfortunate truth: regardless of your device, becoming infected with malware is a very real possibility when software installation is involved. For a long time, malware was isolated to Windows due to its dominance in the computer market, eventually moving on to infect Mac and Linux computers (to a lesser degree). Now, malware presents a threat to mobile devices, including Android. Are you prepared?
The immediate question is, how does malware get on an Android device in the first place? After all, most users only install apps through the Play Store, and Google keeps a tight watch over that to make sure malware doesn’t squeeze through, right? Not entirely. Suspicious apps have been known to make it onto the Play Store. And then there’s the whole issue with using a third-party app distributor to install cracked apps, which can also result in malware. This, in turn, can cause your phone to download unwanted content and increase your data usage.
Is your Android infected without you knowing? If so, how can you cleanse your device of these impurities? And how can you keep yourself protected in the future? Keep reading to find out.
Signs of Android Malware Infection
Just as on a computer, there are some warning signs that can alert you to the presence of a malware infection on an Android device. The gist of it is this: if something begins acting out of the ordinary and you haven’t made any significant changes to your device, the problem might be malware related.
- Unexplained data usage. A lot of malware exists to collect data: account details, credit card numbers, contacts lists, etc. Once it has this information, the malware app needs to relay it back to whoever created that malware – and in most cases, this information transfer will result in strange spikes in data usage.
- Poor phone performance. Depending on the age of your device and the severity of malware infection, your phone’s performance might take a hit. If you experience a slowing down, you might have a malware infection – especially if a reboot doesn’t alleviate the problem.
- Reduced battery life. Since most malware are designed to sit in the background and run all day long, you may notice a dip in your battery life. More severe cases of malware will kill your battery faster than mild cases.
- Dropped phone calls. Sometimes your calls will drop due to poor service. Other times, the culprit could be malware interference. Most of the time, poor service will be the right answer, but when you start dropping more calls than normal, it could be indicative of malware.
Removing Malware From Android
The best way to remove malware from an Android would be to, unsurprisingly, install a malware removal app. Just be sure to install a reputable one. How silly would it be if you accidentally installed malware while trying to install a malware remover? Here are some free ones that you may want to check out:
- 360 Mobile Security: 360 can scan your device, whether manually or automatic, and provide protection based on its ever-updated cloud database of threats. It can detect vulnerabilities on your device and optimize your settings. It’s quick, to the point, and effective – not to mention the fact that it has one of the most beautiful app interfaces I’ve ever seen. For a deeper look, check out Ben’s 360 Mobile Security review.
- avast! Mobile Security: avast! can scan your device manually or according to schedule. When browsing, it will detect and block malware-infected links, and it will monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic for threats. Other advanced features include anti-theft measures, a built-in firewall, and SMS/call filtering.
- AVG AntiVirus Security: AVG’s app will scan all new files and apps for potential threats, including malware, spyware, and viruses. On top of that, it can identify insecure settings and provide tips for plugging security holes. There are also some advanced features, like traffic monitoring and anti-theft measures.
Keeping Your Android Free of Malware
The only way to completely prevent malware on your Android is to never download any apps, never plug the Android into a computer, and pretty much live in a bubble for the remainder of the device’s lifetime. Well, that’s not exactly practical, so here are some tips you should know to minimize the chances of contracting malware.
- Check app reviews. When you find a new app to download, always read the reviews first. If the app is problematic in any way, some of the reviews will make note of it and you can move on. If the app doesn’t have any reviews, you may want to steer clear until it does, otherwise you could end up infected with malware like clipper malware that affects Android users.
- Check developer’s track record. Okay, so let’s say there’s an app you really want but there are no reviews on it and you don’t feel like waiting. You can always check the developer’s other apps to see if they have a reputable track record. If this is their first app, though, you’re back to square one and your best bet is to be safe than sorry.
- Be wary of third-party app markets. The truth is, all app markets have some degree of risk to them. If the Play Store can let slip a few malware apps, then it’s safe to assume that no app markets are completely safe. (The 9Apps store was in the news recently for being the main point of infection for the Agent Smith malware.) At the very least, stick to the reputable ones like the Amazon Appstore. And make sure you know how to avoid malvertising on the web.
- Be careful when granting Superuser privileges. For those of you who have rooted your Android devices, make sure you limit Superuser privileges only to the apps you trust 100%. If you grant Superuser access to every app that asks for it, then you’re just asking for malware to gain full control of your device.
- Run malware scans regularly. This shouldn’t be a problem if you installed one of the apps above since they all have the ability to schedule scans. But whatever you choose to use, be sure to make a routine out of scanning, whether it’s once a day or once a week.
Now, with all of that said, don’t freak out. Many happy Android users have gone years without ever contracting malware, so it’s not like you’ll find it around every corner just waiting to jump you. However, it’s always good to be prudent when it comes to security and it’s better to know about it than bumble along in ignorance. Take heed and keep your Android device safe!
How else do you fight and protect yourself against Android malware? For more tips, take a look at how to protect your devices from botnets that could contain malware.