Smartphone Viruses Are Real: How To Stay Protected

Joel Lee 14-07-2014

The last thing you want is a latent Trojan that sits in the background and steals all of your sensitive data. Think you’re safe from a smartphone infection? I wouldn’t be too sure. Viruses are most prevalent on PC platforms, yes, but these past few years have proven that smartphone viruses are real What You Really Need To Know About Smartphone Security Read More . Are you safe?


Considering how integral smartphones now are to everyday life, it’s scary to think how much damage can be done by malware – and sometimes all it takes is one lapse in judgment to become infected. Keep reading to find out what these infections could do to you, how to detect them, and how to shield yourself from them.

The Worst Smartphone Malware Attacks


Smartphone malware infections might seem like a recent concern, but the first attack goes back nearly a full decade. How bad can malware be?

The first notable attack was on Symbian OS, the world’s most popular smartphone operating system prior to Android’s rise to fame in 2010. The Cabir worm was a proof-of-concept virus in 2004 that could spread to other phones through Bluetooth. The constant scan for Bluetooth devices reduced battery life, but otherwise it was harmless.

Then, in 2005, Symbian phones were hit by the Commwarrior virus. This too was relatively harmless, but it proved that viruses could spread through MMS (text messages with images, videos, or sounds). Prior to this, mobile attacks were localized due to the limited range of Bluetooth. With Commwarrior, distance was no longer a limit.


As Android exploded in popularity, it became the target of malware developers. The Gingermaster Trojan exploited a security hole in the Gingerbread version of Android, allowing the virus to elevate itself to superuser permissions. With unfettered access, Gingermaster gathered phone data and sent it off to a remote address for collection.

This particular virus is a good example of why Android app permissions How Android App Permissions Work and Why You Should Care Android forces apps to declare the permissions they require when they install them. You can protect your privacy, security, and cell phone bill by paying attention to permissions when installing apps – although many users... Read More are important and the potential dangers of rooting Android Why Doesn't Android Come Rooted? Rooting your Android phone is a rite of passage. It unlocks the functionality that separates Android from iOS and opens a realm of almost infinite customization. Replacing the entire operating system is possible on a... Read More .

And if you thought iOS was immune to viruses, think again. Although Apple tries to maximize app security by exercising strict control over the App Store, some things can slip through.

The Ikee worm exploited a vulnerability in jailbroken devices and spread using the SSH protocol. Fortunately, it was harmless and only replaced the wallpaper with a photo of Rick Astley. However, it did prove that iOS wasn’t as virus-proof as some defenders had claimed.


Symptoms of Smartphone Malware Infection


Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of malware is its stealthy and deceptive nature. For as long as you remain in the dark, malware can sit back and do its thing. It’s only when you know you’re infected that you can take the proper steps towards removing the threat. So, how can you tell if your phone has been infected by malware?

Decreased battery life is a huge signal that should always raise a red flag. It won’t always mean an infection – it could be as simple as a buggy app that’s hogging a lot of CPU – but it should make you suspicious. Malware is always trying to collect information, always tapping into data streams, and always attempting to spread, and all of those processes make your phone work overtime.

Again, battery drain is not always a sign of something malicious. If you’re having issues with it, check out these tips for extending Android battery life 10 Proven and Tested Tips to Extend Battery Life on Android Suffering from poor battery life on Android? Follow these tips to get more juice out of your Android device's battery. Read More .


Decreased performance. In the same vein as the battery life sign above, malware tends to slow down your phone’s speed. You only have so much processing power. When malware is constantly running in the background, it leaves even fewer resources for the rest of your apps. In most cases, you should notice the performance hit.

Interrupted calls and apps. Malware is invasive and it often likes to interfere with running processes in order to snoop and pull information to which it might not normally have access. The result is that calls might unexpectedly drop (especially when malware tries to reroute them) and apps might unexpectedly crash. If these problems start occurring out of the blue, you may be infected.

There are some other yellow flags that could raise suspicions, but these are major warnings that you shouldn’t ignore.

Mobile Security With Safe Habits



If you suspect malware on your phone, there are a few antivirus tools you could use to diagnose and remove the infections. It may seem unnecessary but not using antivirus app is one of the most common smartphone security mistakes Ten Common Smartphone Mistakes That Expose You To Security Risks The following is a run-down of ten of the most common smartphone mistakes. Read More . Better to be safe than sorry.

Some recommended apps include:

  • 360 Security (Free, Android & iOS): This wonderful app not only scans for actual infections but also for vulnerabilities in your system. It’s also equipped with automatic protection to ease your mind. On top of malware defense, 360 Security is even useful for anti-theft protection, power saving, and blocking unwanted calls and texts.
  • Avira Mobile Security (Free, Android & iOS): Avira has an on-demand and automatic app scanner that negates most mobile threats. It can also track your phone’s location, lock it down remotely, and detect hacked emails and notify your contacts that your email has been comprised. It’s light on the battery, too, so it’s a good choice if you’re worried about resource consumption.
  • avast! Mobile Security (Free, Android): avast! is an acclaimed antivirus app that deserves its reputation. It can scan and remove malware, but like the two apps above, it has a few extra bells and whistles on top of that: anti-theft measures, network meter, app locks, firewall, and more. The ability to schedule automatic periodic scans makes this one the most convenient option.

All in all, these three apps are all great and packed full of security features. Which one should you use? It comes down to personal preference.

Other tips that will maximize your mobile safety:

If you only take away one thing from all of this, just remember that smartphone viruses are real. Be careful and vigilant whenever your phone is connected to WiFi, Bluetooth, or data. You never know when malware could find its way onto your device.

Has your phone ever been infected by a virus? Tell us about it. How bad was it? How did you get rid of it? What steps do you take now to stay safe? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: Virus Warning Via Shutterstock, Infected Smartphone Via Shutterstock, Shielded Smartphone Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Anti-Malware, Smartphone Security.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Amko tar
    November 29, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    I have used almost 8 apps featuring antivirus but eveñ though my mobile phone is consequently affected by virus.perhaps, i don't have words to speak.

  2. Aldrin
    July 2, 2016 at 12:07 am

    What I download an anime picture in Google something isn't right when it's done downloading another download after few hours my performance and ram and battery decreasing what I open my cm security there it is! The Trojan I can't delete it help me!it can only disable help me how to delete this scumbag virus!

  3. Audra
    March 22, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Hi I have a BLu phone and just recently I have had a duck on my screen. I touched it by mistake and it downloaded some kind of porncrap. It must have been a virus. Didn't know what to do so did soft reset. But it has all of my phone contacts!!! A girl on my contacts got a text from me with an image to download and I don't know what to do now!!! I soft reset my phone and it cleared all my contacts but she still got a text from me after I did that. What do I do?????? What can I do to?

  4. Bhagya
    May 17, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    I had lots of adwares on my android. don't know yet how they sneaked into my phone. I had mcafee installed, which failed to identify them,so I had to figure out the solution myself.
    go through your downloaded apps list,check for apps without any icons,or apps with names such as, google wallpaper, google calculator, etc which has nothing to do with the real google. check if they can be uninstalled,, if yes,its a malware.

  5. fadi
    April 1, 2015 at 11:27 am

    thank you help me

  6. UNHAPPY ex-customer
    August 30, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    It was AVG Free that ppicked up that my smartphone(Bauhn ASP-4500Z) and tablet (Bauhn HDC-08) both had the SMSREG app/virus/malware installed. I have contacted both Aldi Australia and Tempo Australia but nothing has been done to fix it. Tempo have admitted that it is pre-installed from the factory and it is to assist in the sending of SMS messages over various networks. Funny that as that is what people are reporting the phones doing......all without their knowlege or consent and to international numbers....NO record of the SMS left on the phones. Aldi, in my opinion YOU ARE JUST AS RESPONSIBLE for the spread of this kind of crap as those that write it in the first place.

  7. Den E
    July 24, 2014 at 8:58 am

    At the moment I am using AVG free, but whenever it scans anything or flags up a vulnerability, it takes FOR-EV-ER to load the screen that tells me what the threat is. (It's usually some spam SMS i've received)

    Thanks for these suggestions - will try them out and see if they're any faster, and perhaps improve my battery life too! :)

  8. PlaGeRaN
    July 21, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I need root to remove annoying Facebook app and it's endless list of permissions.
    Thanks for the info tho

  9. JoAnna Daniels
    July 21, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Is CM Security a good app to use for protection against maestro and viruses?

  10. Abdel
    July 18, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Some corrections for my previous comments:

    - qome -> some
    - alsl -> also
    - howevef -> however
    - Mlwarebytes -> malwarebytes
    - adcantage -> advantage
    - wirhanother -> with another

    sorry for my hurry! Greetz :)

  11. Abdel
    July 18, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    I once got infected by qome annoying viruses that bothered me with unnecessary notifications. It alsl slowed the performance of my samsung galaxy s3. Howevef, I was able to remove them with avast mobile security. I also installed malwarebytes anti malware to double-check and just as I expected avast even missed out a afew threats. I personally recommend Mlwarebytes. It always saved me from harm, on my pc as well as my smartphone. Abd there's also the adcantage it can be used along wirhanother antivirus app. Hope this little story helped. Greetings abdel :)

  12. Roy
    July 17, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    And you base your information on what? How about listing the av testing benchmarks. Avanst only catches 76% of viruses/malware. More detailed information would help people make a better choice

  13. J R Celoni
    July 15, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    I was surprised not to see Lookout on your list. How do you rank it vs. the three you name? Thanks.

    • Joel L
      July 17, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      Lookout is great and useful. I didn't mention it because there's only so much room I have when writing an article that I can't include every possible alternative. Thanks for bringing it up, though. It's a good option. :)

  14. Tom
    July 15, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    I was really interested to read this article. Reason is...and I can not remember how long ago. Although I believe it was a year ago or so. Makeuseof had a very similar article comparing android security software. The difference between this one and the other? The writer chose to ignore and slam the Avast app. At that time I wrote a comment about how well I thought Avast worked. That it was a pretty good at what is does.
    I know Avast has had a couple problems. Even so. Im glad to see it get some mention here. It just makes me wonder why was it so terrible then? And now its good.. oh well.

    • Joel L
      July 17, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      Sorry Tom. I don't know what to say except that we're a group of writers and we don't always have the same opinions, haha. Plus, apps evolve over time and so do our opinions. Perhaps your comments back then changed some of our perspectives! :)

    • Tom
      July 17, 2014 at 11:11 pm

      Edit; Hi Joel. No need for sorrow. I do enjoy the feigned attempt of patronage though. It would be great if in fact a user's comment might get you to see something in a different manor.
      Lets see...whould they be power? No. I don't have that type of power. But, you do. It's referred to as a open mind. I really did enjoy reading your article. In fact. I tried out one of the apps you wrote about. Pretty good app. I know it's just a opinion of mine. I wouldn't have that if I had not tried it. So, thanks for the review. I will continue to read and comment on makeuseof articles. I only hope that in the future. If I am being honest. It is not mistaken as being smug. Good luck to ya!

  15. Positive
    July 15, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Good information. Are there phone antivirus for Blackberry users?

    • noobdenial
      July 16, 2014 at 3:09 am

      Blackberry makes use of security through obscurity.

  16. Keefe K
    July 14, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Are there any known threats against the WP8 platform? I know we can't be lucky to be free of malware, as iOS is a pretty secure mobile OS just like WP8 is. However, if there isn't a big threat against Windows Phone, I suspect it's because of it's low market share and popularity. This is the exact reason why there isn't alot of malware on Macs compared to the PCs, however, as either gain popularity (and especially since the market is shirting to replace computer with tablets), we'll unfortunately see more and more malware. I can only hope we'll have the right tool, and be ready for such an event. Thanks for the article! :)

    • Joel L
      July 17, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      WP8 is relatively new and its market share is somewhat small so that keeps it out of the malware spotlight for now. As far as I know, there haven't been any known threats for it. I don't have any personal experience using WP8 but I hear that it has a tighter security design than Android and possibly even iOS, but I guess we'll have to wait a few years to see if anyone can crack it. :)