AVG Signal Blog Security Viruses How to Find and Remove Viruses on iPhones or Android Phones

Not sure how to tell if your phone has a virus? Mobile malware is on the rise, but it's easy to scan and remove viruses from Android phones and even iPhones if you follow just a few simple steps. Learn how to stop pop-up ads and malicious Android apps in their tracks, as well as how to run a full phone virus scan. (Skip directly to our section on removing malware from an iPhone or our section on removing malware from an Android device.)

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    Can iPhones get viruses?

    The story about iPhone viruses — or, more accurately, iPhone malware — is a bit different: Although the iPhone’s operating system (iOS) is generally not vulnerable to viruses or malware, there are other security threats you should guard your phone against. 

    What keeps iOS safer? Unlike Android, iPhone and iPad apps can be downloaded only through the official App Store. This prevents fake apps from infecting your iPhone with malicious software.additional-image-malicious-app-icon-in-sandbox-620x300

    Apps for iOS are also “sandboxed,” meaning they can’t access data from other apps or break into your device’s OS. Android sandboxes its apps too, but their approach is less restrictive than iOS, giving apps more control over your device.

    Additionally, iOS rolls out updates to all devices simultaneously, which helps to plug holes and prevent security vulnerabilities so hackers can’t exploit them.

    Does that mean it’s impossible to get a virus on an iPhone? Well, thanks to Apple’s safety precautions, iPhone viruses are extremely rare. But malware on an iPhone can happen if the device is jailbroken, which lets iPhone and iPad users download apps from sources other than the App Store, exposing them to potential threats. (Unless you're an advanced tech user, we do not recommend jailbreaking your phone, because it can cause unintended problems and voids your manufacturer’s warranty.)

    A jailbroken iPhone is just as vulnerable to malware as an Android device. But even without jailbreaking your phone, iPhone users are still vulnerable to other security threats, such as phishing, unsafe Wi-Fi networks, and identity theft.

    That’s why we recommend using a strong mobile protection app for iPhones and iPads, such as AVG Mobile Security.

    Can Android phones get viruses?

    Although Android mobiles don’t get “viruses” in the traditional sense, they are vulnerable to malicious software that can cause chaos on your phone.

    What’s the difference between malware and a virus? Computer viruses are malicious programs that infect and corrupt your other programs and files, disrupt your machine’s performance, and just generally wreak havoc. But the ability to replicate is what distinguishes viruses from other forms of malware. So far, self-replicating malware has not made its way onto Android phones or iPhones, meaning your phone can’t technically get a “virus” — this is just the go-to term most people use to explain any kind of malicious software.

    Android malware comes in many forms, ranging from adware, which drenches you in waterfalls of unwanted ads, to spyware, which gathers your personal data for third parties (often advertisers), to mobile ransomware, which holds your files hostage and demands a ransom in order for you to retrieve them.

    Malware often makes its way into Android devices in the form of fake, malicious apps that sneak into the Google Play store or hide in other third-party app shops.

    One of the reasons Android phones are susceptible to malware is Android’s struggles with updates. Updates are important because they often contain fixes to bugs or other vulnerabilities found in the operating system (OS).

    Android’s open source system and delayed rollout of updates are two major reasons why you should always use a strong antivirus solution for Android as an added layer of protection. Secure your phone right now with AVG AntiVirus for Android, the world’s most trusted free antivirus app.

    How to tell if your phone has a virus (or malware)

    An infected mobile phone displaying popups and heating up

    Like viruses, malware is all about the stealth attack. It sneaks onto your phone, lying dormant until you unknowingly activate it, quietly (usually) stealing your sensitive information right from under your nose.

    It’s up to you to be proactive and keep a lookout for symptoms that could signal your device is infected. But don’t worry — it’s fairly easy to check your iPhone or Android device for malware.

    1. Increased data usage

    If you notice a sudden spike in data usage, that could be a sign that a virus is running background tasks on your device or trying to use the internet to transmit information from your phone. (While you're at it, find out how to control your data usage on mobile phones).

    2. Excessive app crashing

    Apps crash periodically, but if your apps start crashing regularly for seemingly no reason, your phone could have a virus or malware.

    3. Adware pop-ups

    Most pop-up ads are just annoying, not malicious. And the good news is that these can easily be blocked by using an ad blocker or a privacy-optimized browser like AVG Secure Browser, which comes with a built-in ad blocker. But if you’re seeing pop-up ads on your Android or iPhone even when your browser is closed, you could be dealing with adware: malicious pop-ups caused by malware trying to steal your data.

    4. Unexplained phone bill increases

    Some malware strains attack by sending premium-rate SMS messages from your phone, causing your phone bill to skyrocket. Ztorg Trojans were found doing this in 2017, in addition to deleting incoming messages.

    5. Unfamiliar apps

    If you notice an app on your phone that you don’t recall downloading, stay away! A common symptom of malware on Android phones, fake apps should be uninstalled immediately.

    6. Faster battery drain

    Malware mischief can use up a lot of energy, rapidly depleting your Android or iPhone’s battery. If your battery is dying faster than usual, a virus might be the cause.

    7. Overheating

    While the majority of reasons your phone is overheating are normal and relatively harmless, it’s also possible that the cause is a malware infection.

    Stay immune from viruses and malware

    But let’s be honest, it’s time-consuming to stay vigilant and check each symptom described above. Instead of doing this manually, install AVG AntiVirus for Android (or AVG Mobile Security for iPhone and iPad), two simple yet incredibly powerful free apps that will keep you protected from whatever threats emerge over the horizon.

    Watch out for malicious apps

    One of the easiest ways to tell if your phone has a virus is by looking out for malicious apps. Downloading a malicious app is an easy way for Android malware to get on your device. And once there, it can quickly compromise your online security.

    One of the most common strains of Android malware in recent years is Hummingbad. First detected in 2016, Hummingbad initially spread through third-party app stores, though it eventually made its way onto the Google Play store. It’s main purpose was to get users to click on fake mobile and web ads in order to generate revenue for the ad firm behind the attack, Yingmob. The malware also installed rootkits, giving the hackers total control over infected devices and letting them download malicious apps onto devices without consent. Other fake apps, like fake games, wreaked similar havoc — like Finger Hockey for Android, which stole confidential info from players.

    And while iOS malware is much rarer, it does exist. In 2015, an iOS malware strain known as KeyRaider targeted jailbroken iOS devices. KeyRaider was most notable for stealing user information from more than 225,000 Apple accounts, including usernames, passwords, and purchasing information. KeyRaider also disabled unlocking functionalities for iPhones and iPads, and even worse, it encrypted some users’ devices and demanded a ransom to unlock them.

    What malicious apps do on phones

    Malware on mobile sending SMS, recording conversations, and collecting data

    Above are only some examples of how mobile malware can overrun your device. Other forms of malware have been known to:

    • Subscribe phones to premium services or send premium SMS messages.

    • Record phone conversations and send them to hackers.

    • Collect your personal information, including your GPS location, contact list, photos, email address, banking details, etc.

    • Rack up unexpected charges, through data depletion, unusual SMS charges, or unauthorized app charges.

    • Take over your device through rooting.

    • Infect you with ransomware, locking you out of your files.

    So, before you download any shiny new apps, it’s best to check if they’re safe. Some apps might be clean when you download them, then later get infected with malware through updates — so it’s important to stay alert.

    And the best way to do so  is to install AVG AntiVirus for Android (or AVG Mobile Security for iPhone and iPad). Each of these apps has been designed and built by the world’s foremost digital security experts to ensure that whatever threats are out there, they stay far away from your device.

    How to remove a virus from an iPhone

    Luckily, iPhone virus removal is fairly straightforward, since the virus or malware can’t actually break into iOS. That’s why most hackers go after software developer kits, which are then used to create apps — and it’s also the reason you shouldn’t jailbreak your iPhone and download third-party apps. 

    If you think a certain app may be compromised (maybe your problems started after you downloaded it, or it’s redirecting you without permission), you can try uninstalling it and seeing if that clears up the problem.

    If not, you have a few other options.

    1. Clear history and data

    This should help if you are experiencing pop-ups or “Error” messages in your Safari browser. Simply go to Settings and scroll down to the Safari tab. Then tap Clear History and Website Data.

    Find your iOS settings for the first step to clearing your history and data. Clear your history and website data to get rid of annoying pop-ups or error messages.

    2. Power off and restart your iPhone

    Nothing tricky about this — simply hold down your iPhone’s power button, wait for the “slide to power off” slider to appear, then slide to turn it off. To restart your phone, hold down the power button once more and wait for the Apple logo to appear. Yes, we’re suggesting the good ol’ “turn it off and on again.” Trust us, it works!Restarting your iPhone can fix a lot of issues.

    3. Restore from an earlier backup

    If the above methods don’t fix the problem, try restoring your phone from an earlier backup (suddenly appreciating those incessant “back up your phone” reminders right now, aren’t you?). If your most recent backup isn’t malware-free, you can try earlier backups until you find one that is.

    4. Restore as new device

    This is a last resort scenario, but if all else fails, then you can completely wipe your device and start fresh. Do this by going to Settings >> General >> Reset >> Erase All Content and Settings. And just like that, you can rise from the ashes like the resilient phoenix you are.

    To restore your iOS as a new device, first go to settings and select "general". Under general, select "reset".

    Rom the reset menu, select "erase all content and settings".

    Always keep your iOS device protected

    First of all, we don’t recommend jailbreaking your iPhone. Third-party apps can put your device at risk, so you should stick to the Apple’s App Store. And speaking of apps in the Apple Store…

    Why not download a dedicated security app to protect you? While your iPhone is unlikely to get a virus, there are many other threats out there. AVG Mobile Security for iPhone and iPad will make sure your passwords stay safe, your Wi-Fi network is secure, and your private photos stay private, even if your phone falls into the wrong hands.

    AVG Mobile Security inspects Wi-Fi networks to make sure they're secure. Use Photo Vault to lock away your private photos and keep them safe.

    Ready to take your security up a level? Install AVG Mobile Security for iOS now and start enjoying free, comprehensive protection for your iPhone or iPad today.

    How to remove a virus from an Android phone

    If you notice your device exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned above and suspect you have a virus, there are a few different methods you can try to remove it.

    Run a phone virus scan

    Google Play is full of antivirus apps that you can use to scan for and remove a virus from your phone. Here’s how to download and run a virus scan using the free AVG AntiVirus for Android app.

    Step 1: Head over to the Google Play Store and install AVG AntiVirus for Android.

    Step 2: Open the app and tap the Scan button

    Download AVG AntiVirus to prevent viruses on your Android.

    Step 3: Wait while the app scans and checks your apps and files for any malicious software

    Step 4: If a threat is found, tap Resolve

    AVG AntiVirus will scan for threats and show you what needs to be resolved. AVG AntiVirus will keep you safe from mobile threats.

    Step 5: AVG will help you uninstall the malicious app

    Manually uninstall malicious apps

    Step 1: Go into Safe Mode

    As it does in Windows, Safe Mode on Android turns off access to all third-party apps to stop them from running. It’s a great tool to help identify the culprit behind your Android phone’s unusual behavior. If the problem goes away when your phone is in Safe Mode, then you know a malicious app is to blame. Safe Mode also lets you use your phone normally, without any interference.

    While many Android phones will prompt you to Reboot to Safe Mode after pressing and holding the Power off button, others may require slightly more complex steps. If done correctly, you should see the words Safe Mode at the bottom of your phone’s screen once it turns on.

    Use safe mode to detect any malicious apps. When you reboot in safe mode, you'll see it written in the bottom left corner.

    Step 2: Identify the malicious app

    Open your Settings and choose the Manage apps or Apps & notifications tab (or a similar variation). Go to the Downloaded apps or Installed apps tab and look for any apps that seem suspicious, like apps you don’t remember downloading or that shouldn’t be running on your device. Is there an app you downloaded around the time your phone started acting funky?

    Go into your settings to find any malicious apps. Review all the apps you have to see if you have any fake apps lurking on your phone.

    Step 3: Uninstall the malicious app

    In most cases, you will simply be able to select the malicious app and tap the Uninstall button. 

    Uninstall any malicious apps to remove malware from your Android.

    But if the malware or virus puts up a fight, you may discover a greyed out Uninstall button, meaning it has administrator access to your device. In this case, see Step 4.

    Step 4: Remove administrator access

    Go back into your Settings and look for Security. Tap Device Administrators (or something similar) and check to see if any malicious apps have access. If so, tap on the app and then remove access by either unchecking the blue box or clicking Deactivate. You can now uninstall the malicious app (go back to Step 3).

    Use the Security & location tab to find out if a malicious app has gained admin access to your device. Select "Device admin apps" to see which malicious apps may have access to your device.

     Select "Device admin apps" to see which malicious apps may have access to your device.

    Always keep your Android device protected

    As mentioned above, you should avoid third-party app stores. Yes, sometimes malware does make its way onto the Google Play store, but steering clear of third-party apps will still help Android users avoid the vast majority of threats out there. 

    But the best way to prevent malware from infecting your phone is to use a strong and reliable antivirus app. AVG AntiVirus for Android will scan your apps and files for any threats that could compromise your device or leak your personal information. Install it today, completely free.

    Protect your iPhone against malware and other threats with AVG Mobile Security

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    Protect your Android against viruses and malware with AVG AntiVirus

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