How to Find and Remove Malware on Your Android

An Android virus is an “aggregated image” of any malicious element threatening your Android device. Despite “virus” originating as a term from the computer world, it has leaked into the mobile environment to also describe something dangerous and harmful.


In this scenario, the term “virus” is not quite technically correct: viruses are malicious elements able to self-replicate, and so far Android malware doesn't behave in this way. But, in spite of this, Android malware is still a concern.

What malware for Android exists

Viruses are not on the list, but the following threats can be equally harmful.



This software  shows you ads more frequently and in unexpected places: on your home screen, in applications, etc. The adware can show you both ads of real products and bombard you with malicious fake pop-ups you’re better off avoiding.


How dangerous is adware?

Adware is annoying. It is likely to drive you insane, make you think your device is infected, and get you looking for a “best Android security app” capable of saving you from this nightmare. Plus, there’s always a risk of tapping on a malicious pop-up, then  either downloading something unwanted or becoming a victim of scammy social engineering.



This malware is the “devil in disguise” – a standard app able to do unusual things: spy on you, change your system settings to breach your Android security, or facilitate the delivery of other malware to your Android device. There are apps intentionally made to be malicious. Then, there are other normal useful apps infected with malware, so have unintentionally joined the dark side.  


How dangerous is a trojan?

Trojans possess huge destructive potential. Once installed, they can really mess up your device. The biggest risk is when removing the trojan itself doesn’t always fix the problem. Even installing antivirus on Android may not always help.


Sometimes trojans are just delivery guys: when you say goodbye to the courier, the “package” in this case the malware sticks around for you to deal with.



This type of malware locks you out of your Android device and demands a ransom to unlock it. There are two types of ransomware, depending on the way it acts.

  • Crypto ransomware will encrypt the data on your device
  • Locker ransomware will just lock the device by showing a full-screen pop-up you cannot close or get rid of

Both will demand you pay a ransom, usually in bitcoin, to regain control of your Android.


How dangerous is ransomware?

The danger is you never know if the threat is real. There’s also no guarantee your phone will be unlocked, even if you pay. Ransomware is more of a “psychological weapon” for non-tech-savvy users: it’s hard to think critically if an intruder threatens to send your personal photos to your entire contact list, including your employer and business colleagues. As with trojans, removing the ransomware app may not be a solution if the files are already encrypted.



This malware can spy on your Android activities and hand the harvested data to hackers, advertisers, government agencies, or anyone else who can use it for their own ends. This includes collecting your credit card data, browsing history, passwords, or other sensitive information. Luckily, removing the spyware agent is usually enough to protect your device, but it’s not always easy to do.


How dangerous is spyware?

Depending on the spyware’s main purpose, you can see more relevant ads capable of revealing your identity, become a victim of identity theft or a credit card fraud, or all of the above. The level of damage may differ, but none of the scenarios seem too good. In any case, spyware will intrude on your privacy and this is enough to add it to the list of things to avoid.

Do I need an antivirus on Android?

There are some red-flag signs you need to look out for when it comes to your Android security.

  • Your phone is overheating
  • The battery life has suddenly shortened
  • You see unusual ads on your Android or the ads became “too personal”
  • You receive higher phone bills
  • The apps are acting up: not opening, crashing, or taking too long to open
  • Your data usage has increased for no good reason

Be extra careful if:

  • Your device is rooted
  • Your Android OS no longer receives updates
  • Your Android device is not updated to the latest version, even if it is compatible with the latest OS version

How to remove viruses from Android

If you’ve been lured into a trap, become infected with malware  and have no antivirus on your Android, then don’t panic: there are some simple steps you can take to remove malware. The steps may require a basic knowledge of the Android system.


If you noticed several of the above symptoms but your phone is still functional, take a thorough look at the list of your apps. It could be hiding here. Of course, the malware won’t be too easy to find but you can rely on your gut feeling.


1️⃣Remove all unused and suspicious apps

There are several recommendations on how to spot malware.

  • Pay attention to any recently installed apps. If you are unsure about the app’s security, do some basic research: look for app reviews in the Google Play store or just google the name of the app. As a rule, this should be enough to find out if the app is reliable and check if other users have had any issues.
  • Try to recall the purpose of installing the app. Sometimes you could install a doc reader or face scanner to complete a particular task, then just forget to remove it after the task is completed. Only keep apps you need and use actively.
  • Uninstall apps you don’t even remember installing: those are the most likely suspects in causing havoc on your Android device. Be ruthless and delete them.

2️⃣Clear your downloads

Unlike iOS, Android OS allows you to download various files from the internet. This is a useful feature, but it also poses risks to your device: you can accidentally download malware. It’s important to keep your folder of downloads in good order and free from any suspicious or unneeded files.


If your Android device is failing to respond, freezing, or not allowing you to open anything, resort to more advanced steps.


3️⃣Remove malware in safe mode

Safe mode allows you to turn off any third-party apps and services, giving you a chance to disable malware as well.


Remember, if you use any custom launchers, your phone will look different while in safe mode. Don’t be scared: your home screen icons will return after reboot.


The only thing affected will be the home screen widgets: they will be removed. Before proceeding to safe mode, we recommend taking a screenshot of your home screen so you can easily restore widgets after booting back to normal mode.


Steps to enter the safe mode can differ for different device models but the most frequent steps are as follows. If these don’t work for your device, then check out the manufacturer guide.

  1. Press and hold the power button until you see the Power off option
  2. Tap and hold the power button until you see the prompt to Reboot to safe mode
  3. Tap OK, then wait until your device restarts
  4. When your phone boots up, you will see the Safe Mode watermark at the bottom. This indicates you booted in safe mode successfully.
  5. Open Settings on your device by tapping the gear-like icon from the list of apps
  6. Tap Apps & notifications, or the similarly called setting that manages apps
  7. Check the apps list carefully and remove anything suspicious: tap the app’s name and select Uninstall
  8. If you stumble upon an unknown suspicious app you still can’t remove, chances are high it’s the intruder you are looking for. First, disable the app by tapping Disable.
  9. Get back to the Settings’ main screen and look for a function allowing administration of your apps. In this case, it’s called Device admin apps.
  10. Find the intruder in the list and turn off the toggle next to it. The toggle should now go gray.
  11. After that, go back to Apps, select the malware and tap Uninstall

When you are done, press and hold the power button again. Then select Reboot to go back to normal mode.

How to prevent malware infection

Getting malware on Android is something easier to prevent than to fight. The best preventive measure is your attention and an informed choice of apps you install and pages you browse. However, this skill is something you acquire through trial and error.


If learning from your own mistakes and prioritising your Android security is not your way, we recommend installing a reliable Android security app. The app will prevent malware from infecting your device so you won’t need to deal with the consequences.


If you recall, antivirus on Android is not actually “antivirus”. Since the chance of contracting malware on Android is quite low, Android security apps are stuffed with other fancy features. This way, installing antivirus will not only prevent malware from installing on your Android device but also secure your connection, remove ads, and block ad trackers as a bonus. Stay informed on all the latest cybersecurity issues through the Clario blog.

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