Table of contents
- What are phone viruses?
- Types of viruses phones can get
- Mobile bots
- Mobile phishing attacks
- How does a phone get infected?
- Can a phone get a virus from a malicious app?
- Can you get a virus from opening a text message?
- Can a phone get a virus from opening an email on your phone?
- Can cell phones get viruses from websites?
- What can viruses do to your phone?
- Is either Apple or Android more secure?
- Viruses on Android phones
- Viruses on iPhones
- Watch out for the signs
- How to protect against phone viruses
What are phone viruses?
Phone viruses, also known as mobile malware, are like any other viruses that affect your devices — like computer viruses. They’re mobile malware developed by cyber criminals to attack your mobile phone.
These viruses infect your phone by copying its code onto its programs, documents, and files. Before you know it, your entire phone has been infected, and your personal information compromised.
However, it could take a while before you notice that your phone has a virus, as viruses are quite stealthy in the way they spread. Viruses spread through file sharing, like in the instances below:
Emails used in phishing attacks tend to carry dangerous files that can infect your phone with malware. These files can be in the form of links and attachments but can also be found in the HTML of an email.
Anytime you download files, attachments, apps, and documents on your phone, you’re putting your phone at risk of getting infected with a virus.
- Old software
Having old, outdated software on your phone is always risky, as it compromises your phone’s security. Update your phone’s software often to steer clear of hackers who are skilled at taking advantage of loopholes in outdated software.
Malvertising is a form of malware attack that targets victims by hiding malicious code in ads. Even reputable websites can unknowingly show you malvertising — the New York Times and the BBC were once compromised in this way. Avoid clicking on ads online altogether to avoid compromising your phone’s security
- Messaging services
Text messages on all messaging apps, like iMessage, WhatsApp, and Instagram, can carry viruses. If you receive messages from unknown senders or suspicious texts from people you know, delete them and block the sender immediately.
Essentially, phone viruses work similarly to biological viruses in humans, which spread from person to person. The result is a compromised system.
Below are some of the implications of having a virus on your phone:
- Your phone slows down
- Your files get deleted or corrupted
- Your apps begin to crash
- You start seeing pop-ups of adware everywhere
- You receive spam messages with links to malware.
Even worse, a virus can spy on you by monitoring what you do on your phone, tracking your location, and sending your personal information to hackers.
Types of viruses phones can get
As with biological viruses, there are various types of phone viruses. These include:
- Phishing attacks
Some viruses are so stealthy they can bypass antivirus software and other security measures. For this reason, it’s important to use reliable antivirus software that protects your phone 24/7.
Clario is a powerful, all-in-one cybersecurity app that protects your devices from hacking. Its Antivirus tool protects your Android device from viruses, malware, spyware, trojans, worms, and more. It only takes a few minutes to download Clario and set up its Antivirus protection.
- Download Clario and create an account
- Check your phone for malware at the click of a button
- Activate 24/7 real-time antivirus protection to guard your Android phone against future malware attacks.
Let’s look at the different viruses that affect mobile phones in greater detail.
These are written to spread from phone to phone. They replicate and attach themselves to various systems, apps, and files on your phone. Viruses can cause your phone to slow down and glitch.
They can also spread via storage devices like USB sticks. And they can spread with or without your knowledge, and immediately or after remaining dormant executing malicious code at a later stage.
Worms, on the other hand, don’t need human intervention to spread or execute commands — they can do that all on their own. Worms can spread via short message service (SMS) and multimedia message service (MMS) messages, so be weary of clicking on links received on these platforms.
These are typically managed remotely by botmasters via command and control servers. As the name suggests, botmasters are cybercriminals who send commands and controls once bots are installed on a mobile phone. Mobile bots give cybercriminals access to your phone and its contents.
Mobile phishing attacks
Mobile phishing attacks, otherwise known as SMiShing, are similar to other phishing attacks. They come in the form of an email or SMS wherein a cybercriminal pretends to contact you from an official or legitimate company.
This is all in an effort to get you to send your account details or install malware on your phone. Never click on links or download attachments from unknown or sketchy senders. Delete the text immediately instead.
A ransomware attack is similar to a phishing attack, except the motivation is to extort money or a ransom from you. Sometimes, crybercriminals threaten to expose private pictures on your phone, but other ransomware is a lot more aggressive.
It involves cybercriminals locking your phone using encryption and demanding that you pay them to unlock it. In most cases, they demand payment in Bitcoin or another form of cryptocurrency. They tell you the exact amount to pay, along with instructions on how to make the payment.
Spyware collects your personal information from the apps you use on a regular basis. These include:
- Email apps
- Calendar apps
- Notes apps, and more.
However, they can also be attached to links and free apps, and spread on your phone when downloaded. Spyware sends your information to remote servers. One example of spyware is adware, which spreads when you click on an infected ad.
Use these tips to remove adware on your Android phone.
A trojan horse virus typically enters your phone through a legitimate app or file. Once activated (when you open the app or file), it can infect other apps. Trojans can go as far as deleting other apps on your phone and even freezing your phone after some time. Banking apps are popular targets for trojan horse viruses.
How does a phone get infected?
We’ve revealed that phones get infected with viruses. Now, let’s get into the specifics of how you can get a virus on your phone.
Can a phone get a virus from a malicious app?
Yes. Clicking on a link can cause your phone to download malicious apps, which can infect your phone with a virus. In 2021, 16,000 Australians reported a Flubot scam to Scamwatch.
The Flubot scam infects your phone by asking you to download an app to manage a delivery, listen to a voicemail message, or view uploaded images. Of course, these are all fake and are designed to trick you into clicking on the link. There are many more viruses like this, so be careful what apps you download.
Can you get a virus from opening a text message?
Yes. Cybercriminals send you a text message containing a malicious link. When you click on the link and provide your personal information as requested in the message, the hacker receives that information and uses it to commit fraud.
The personal information that hackers can request from SMiShing campaigns includes passwords, credit card information, and emails. Like other viruses, cybercriminals tailor their messages to suit their victims and make it more likely that they’ll willingly provide their personal information.
Below are a few examples of SMiShing attacks:
1. Customer support SMiShing scams
Cybercriminals send fake SMSes posing as representatives from a business, notifying you about an issue with your payment or online account. The text includes a link you must click on to rectify the issue. However, the link typically leads to a website containing spyware.
2. COVID-19 SMiShing scams
Given that the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, cybercriminals continue to use it to take advantage of vulnerable individuals.
They pose as government or health officials, claiming to have newly-released information relating to the coronavirus or financial aid. The aim is to get you to click on a link to view that information.
3. Gift SMiShing scams
Cybercriminals lure you with an unexpected message, notifying you that you’ve won a prize — usually cash. They include a malicious link for you to click on to claim your prize. Of course, clicking the link will get malware on your phone and compromise your personal information.
4. Confirmation SMiShing scams
Cybercriminals take their chances by sending business owners fake confirmation requests. These could be business-related orders, quotations, invoices, or even appointments. The aim is to get you to respond with your personal information or click a link to confirm the purchase or appointment.
5. Financial services SMiShing scams
Nearly everyone uses online banking or has an account with a bank. Cybercriminals take advantage of this fact by posing as bank officials, in a ploy to make you give up sensitive information. This information includes your online banking credentials, phone number, email address, and even your social security numbers.
Can a phone get a virus from opening an email on your phone?
Most email products (like Gmail) have an email scanning feature or virus scanner, which checks your emails for spam, viruses, and malware. So, you can’t get a virus from opening an email from your phone unless you click on a malicious link or attachment.
Avoid clicking on or downloading anything in the instances below:
- The email is from an email address you don’t recognize
- The email address contains spelling errors
- The email itself contains spelling errors
- The email address looks eerily similar to another company’s email address but with variations in the spelling
- The sender requests your personal information.
Phishing emails are not always blatantly suspicious. Sometimes, they can be so well-written that they have you second-guessing yourself or considering taking action. Learn how to spot sneaky and dangerous phishing emails. If unsure, ignore or block the sender and delete the email.
Can cell phones get viruses from websites?
Yes, your smartphone can get viruses when you visit certain websites. That’s why phishing emails and SMiShing campaigns contain links to websites with spyware and malicious code in the first place.
Once you enter the website, your phone is infected with a virus, and your personal information is compromised. That’s why you must avoid clicking on suspicious links at all costs.
Use Clario’s Safari and Chrome extensions to avoid malicious websites. Here’s how to download and use it.
What can viruses do to your phone?
Viruses infect your apps and files and can have the following effects on your phone:
- Cause your files and apps to function suspiciously or erratically, like causing them to crash
- Cause your files and apps to be deleted
- Slow down your phone’s performance
- Stop your phone from working completely
- Take over your phone
- Infect your phone with ransomware
- Consume more data than usual, which could drain your battery faster
- Spam you with ads
- Cause you to receive suspicious text messages
- Record your calls and login credentials.
Is either Apple or Android more secure?
The answer isn’t straightforward. Both Apple and Android have had their fair share of security issues, although they put measures in place to be more secure. Read more about which OS is more secure.
Viruses on Android phones
Android phones are generally considered to be less secure than iPhones, and for several reasons:
- Android is an open-source OS, which makes it vulnerable to viruses and malware
- Android users can download apps from outside the Google Play Store. Some of those apps can carry malware
- Google allows mobile manufacturers to customize the Android OS, which makes it difficult to guarantee the most secure version of the software.
Android phones can get malware, spyware, and other security threats. These are likely to come in the form of apps with malicious code. In some cases, dangerous apps can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. For example, in 2022, the Google Play Store saw nearly 10 million downloads of apps containing malware and adware.
Viruses on iPhones
While iPhone viruses are rare, they aren’t non-existent. iPhones are known to be more secure than Android phones and are, therefore, less prone to viruses and malware. However, it’s not uncommon for iPhones to get the following viruses:
- Phishing attacks
You’re more likely to get viruses if you use unsecured Wi-Fi networks or jailbreak your phone. Jail breaking your phone bypasses the manufacturer's built-in security restrictions, which makes it vulnerable to hacking. If you do this, you must use antivirus software around the clock to protect your phone from viruses and malware.
Learn how to remove viruses and malware from your iPhone in the event that it is infected.
Watch out for the signs
Now that we know your phone can get a virus, look out for the signs below to determine if it has one (or more):
- Your phone starts glitching or crashing
- Apps mysteriously appear or disappear from your phone
- Your mobile data is getting depleted at a faster rate
- Your phone’s battery gets drained often
- Your phone is overheating.
How to protect against phone viruses
As previously mentioned, the best way to protect your phone against viruses is using reliable cybersecurity software. Clario’s Antivirus protection for Android is your best bet for keeping viruses out of your phone. This, in turn, helps to protect your personal information, which is every individual’s top priority.