This guide will help you understand viruses and hacking on Android smartphones and tablets. We’ll show you what to look for if you think your device got hacked, and detail some steps to potentially fix it. Smartphone security is extremely important, and here’s where to start.
Whether you’re worried about a trojan virus, malware, spam, botnets, keyloggers or just the latest “stagefright” type exploit, you can do something about it. We’ll discuss ways to get rid of malicious content and help you be more prepared for the future.
These days, smartphones and tablets are just as vulnerable as computers. If not more vulnerable, considering over a billion people own one. Your smartphone is a gateway to lots of personal and sensitive information. Here are a few signs that something might be wrong.
If you think your Android smartphone might be compromised or got hacked, we’re here to help. These are the signs to look for, steps you need to take, and things to consider moving forward.
How to Tell If Your Phone Has a Virus (or Got Hacked)
Hacks and viruses on Android phones and tablets change all the time. They never look the same, although there are a few dead giveaways. That said, sometimes a pop-up is nothing more than a pop-up, trying to trick you into clicking something that WILL give you a virus. Either way, these are a few signs that something isn’t right.
- Random Pop-ups and Ads
- Malicious Fake Pop-ups
- Slow Device
- Unexplained Data Usage
- Apps Keep Crashing
- Random Charges on Your Bill
- Unwanted App Installs and more
- Extreme Battery Usage
One of the first signs of a virus or that your Android device got hacked is pop-ups. If you’re seeing crazy pop-ups like the photo above, something isn’t right. These often make noises, flash, and won’t let you close them. If that happens, hit the home button and close all running apps. Don’t try to click on anything inside your web browser.
At the same time, a lot of pop-ups are nothing more than pop-ups trying to get you to click something bad or buy virus protection. Ignore these every time you see them, and never pay for anything.
What to Look For
Random pop-ups are one of the first signs, but it’s not the only thing you should look for. Our list detailed above explains some of the biggest warning signs.
If your device is running extremely slow, a virus or hacker might have things going on behind the scenes you can’t see, making your phone slow. You might see your phone bill increase too, because a virus is transmitting information from your device, using up your monthly data plan. A common problem is malware sending text messages to premium numbers. Making hackers money at your expense. Head to Settings > Connections > Data Usage > and check for apps using an excessive amount of data.
If an app is using way more data than it should, something might be wrong.
And finally, malware or keyloggers are typically very hard to find, but leave traces on your smartphone or tablet. Whether that’s a new app you didn’t install, or unwanted apps using way more battery than they should. All of these malicious things use up data, resources, and your battery. A good way to see if you got hacked is to check your phone’s battery usage.
Open Settings and go to Battery > Battery Usage > and scan the list for anything unusual.
If you see anything way out of the ordinary in your battery usage, you might have a virus. Here you see “Miscellaneous” using 70% of the battery. That’s a malicious app or keylogger trying to hide its identity. Even a real app with a name, but one you didn’t install, could be the culprit.
Basically, if your Android phone gets hacked you’ll see anything from pop-ups to random charges, new apps, or experience excessive battery drain.
What To Do If You Got Hacked
If all signs point to malware or your device got hacked, it’s time to fix it. Whether that’s running anti-virus software, getting rid of malware, uninstalling apps, or erasing your device completely.
First off, the easiest way to find and get rid of viruses and malware is to run a reputable anti-virus app. You’ll find dozens of “Mobile Security” or anti-virus apps on the Google Play Store, and they all claim that they’re the best. Look for brands you know and trust, or use to protect your desktop PC. Avast, AVG, BitDefender, or my personal favorite, MalwareBytes.
Our link above details six or so of the best anti-virus apps for Android here in 2017. Some big-name brands you’ve probably heard of are on the list. We also recommend AVL Pro, a former winner of the AV-test (a well-known independent anti-virus testing group) for best mobile protection.
Run an anti-virus scan and see what comes up. Most of the apps from our list are completely free or offer a trial so you can fix your phone without paying a penny. Then, choose to keep it, or uninstall the app and go about your life. We’re here to help you fix your phone, not convince you to buy some software.
Uninstall Bad or Unwanted Apps
If you see apps you didn’t install on your phone, or apps draining your battery or monthly data plan, uninstall them. Head to Settings > Apps > App Manager (or all apps) and scroll through the list.
Find any app you don’t want and click on it. Then, just hit the big uninstall button.
Don’t just delete anything, as that can cause more harm than good. However, delete anything you didn’t install yourself, or any app that is misbehaving. There are a lot of system apps or things that were pre-installed in here, so be careful with what you try to remove.
Erase Everything IF You Have To
If you run some AV software and uninstall apps but you’re still experiencing problems, the last resort is a factory data reset. This will erase everything from your phone and make you start over like the day you brought it home. This is usually the best route, but the most difficult because no one likes setting up a new phone.
Backup any photos, videos, or text messages, then erase your device. Go to Settings > Backup & Reset > Reset > Factory Data Reset. Again, this will erase EVERYTHING on your phone. Only do this if everything else fails.
How to Protect Your Device Moving Forward
Once your Android phone or tablet is free of viruses or malware, you’re all set. However, it’s important to know how to protect yourself from here on out. Knowing what you should or shouldn’t do is very important. Here are a few tips to keep you and your Android phone safe moving forward.
- Only use the Google Play Store or Amazon Appstore
- Watch what and where you click (see image below)
- Make sure to disable “Install from Unknown Sources” in settings
- Keep your phone up to date with the latest software updates
- Secure your phone with a password, fingerprint, or PIN
Keeping your Android phone safe is actually pretty easy. Only download apps and games from the Google Play Store, and don’t get apps or APK files from 3rd party websites. They’re always full of malicious pop-ups or will show you four download links when only one button is the real download button. See the image above for an idea of what we mean. It’s not safe, and we don’t recommend it.
Watch what you click and where you click. Go to settings on your phone and hit the search magnifying glass and type in “Unknown Sources” and make sure to disable that setting. This prevents apps from unknown sources from installing to your device. So even if you do get a virus, it can’t download new apps and make things worse.
In general, just use a little caution and maybe some common sense. Don’t click weird things or download odd files, and be careful. The internet is the wild west and it’s better to be safe than sorry.