Guide to recognizing whether your phone has a virus
The hunt for smartphones has never been more vicious. Criminals and hackers alike are after the data within this small portable device. Thus, one wrong step is all it takes to become a victim of a virus or malware.
Due to the intense threat landscape, prioritizing phone safety is critical. Users should always be on the lookout for any signs of trouble. But what hints can there be, especially when some stealthier viruses can operate without leaving noticeable evidence? Let’s find the signs of your phone confronting a virus and how to deal with it.
Is Android more vulnerable than iOS?
Android does not have the best track record for security. For the most part, users tend to rely more confidently on iOS competence to protect them. Of course, some clear-cut facts are surefire ways to sway users into a particular direction:
- The probability of installing malicious applications. As per our research, more than 60% of Android apps have security vulnerabilities. For instance, even when iOS and Android face similar threats, Android will likely suffer greater consequences. One example comes from counterfeit election applications, with over 90% of apps targeting Android. Thus, Android users are more likely to encounter fake apps, even on the official Google Play Store.
- More secure programs on Apple App Store. Speaking of official stores, Google Play Store has many shortcomings, like detecting only 31% of stalkerware. App Store is famous for its in-depth individual app review process. This vigilant approach simplifies the detection of likely dangerous apps. On the other hand, the Google Play Store approval process is less tedious for app creators but can expose users to potentially hazardous applications.
- Closed source code makes it far more difficult to break. Apple does not give away its code, while Android is open-source. The latter makes it easy for white hat hackers to contribute to discovering potential bugs. However, it also allows more vicious hackers to detect and exploit security vulnerabilities.
It is not all about the system you use
However, the situation is grim on both sides of the board. As little as 1% of people have security programs installed on their smartphones. Thus, nothing boosts the resistance against viruses.
In a way, cybersecurity on devices needs layers. If one layer (security software) fails, other operations should minimize the damage. For instance, you could lock specific files or apps under passwords or apply two-factor authentication on accounts.
Unified and balanced cybersecurity is the best game plan. Your routine and OS changes also play a role. Jailbreaking is a risky modification that can cost users’ their product warranty and security.
Android users might also compromise their devices by installing apps with very few comments or reviews. Such apps could mimic well-known titles, like TikTok, the most popular app to copy in 2021.
Signs that your phone has a virus
Viruses on smartphones can manifest themselves differently, from subtle hints to ransom demands and locked screens. The culprits and their arrival methods also vary.
You could tap on invisible or disguised elements on a web page and unwittingly download malware. The latter technique is clickjacking, and it is one of the stealthiest distribution options.
Whichever tricks hackers choose, the common infection signs are easy to spot once you know where to look.
You use more cellular data
Infected devices can consume more cellular data than you usually do. If you seem to run through your mobile data faster than usual, it could be a sign of an infection. Why? Well, one example is stalkerware, constantly sending updates on your location or activities to the attacker.
Cell phone bill skyrockets
The virus on your phone could also send text messages to paid numbers. SMS Trojans are the culprits going after your money by subscribing users to premium-rate numbers.
A virus called GriftHorse deceived users by showing them five pop-up alerts, asking them to enter their phone numbers. Once provided, the GriftHorse servers would sign victims up for multiple premium SMS services.
Homepage and search engine change
Browser hijackers are parasites that could make changes to your default browser settings. The most likely alterations include homepages, which will feature a site you have likely never seen before.
Additionally, even if you try to change it to your former engine, it will revert to the unknown one. It is also possible that results via such engines will contain potentially malicious or fraudulent links.
Frequent phone or app crashes could relate to hardware problems or bugs in recently installed updates. There are recommendations for troubleshooting such issues correctly.
However, malware could be behind it if you notice a repetitive pattern, and it severely diminishes your experience. It is probably an infection if phones consume many resources while barely having anything open.
More pop-ups and other ads
Adware threats can be the reason why promotional content keeps reappearing on your screen. Of course, you shall encounter many legitimate ads naturally. However, the adware can make the pop-ups you see more repetitive and dangerous. For instance, you could come across fake ads for counterfeit security programs or lottery scams.
The content shown by an adware virus can also contain dark patterns or invisible elements, leading to malicious sites. As mentioned above, such features could also trigger downloads without your authorization.
Your friends receive bizarre messages
A virus could also take control of your messages and send offensive or creepy texts to your contacts. In some cases, the infection will attempt to continue its distribution by sharing malicious links with your friends.
It will expand the pool of victims significantly as one person can lead to dozens of new targets. Since messages derive from a known source, people might be more willing to click on links within them.
Battery drains faster than usual
A smartphone virus can make your battery run out much faster. After all, stealthy processes, tracking, or data delivery to attackers’ servers require power. Your device will pay this price, but it also serves as a noticeable indicator of danger.
After all, slow smartphones and short battery life can quickly become inconvenient. Thus, owners of infected devices will look for solutions much more swiftly.
Your device frequently overheats
Smartphones can overheat due to natural circumstances, like leaving them exposed to the sun. Additionally, intense activities like gaming or video chatting can also make your device slightly overheat. Of course, smartphones have systems for controlling these factors.
However, if your phone idly sits in favorable conditions, there is no reason for it to get toasty. Malware could disregard the internal CPU or charging mechanisms. Thus, it is essential to notice if your smartphone overheats and when it happens.
More unknown apps appear
Malware could facilitate the arrival of more infections. If you notice unknown apps installed on your phone, it could be a sign of a compromised device. Nevertheless, they might not necessarily be malicious.
Your smartphone could become burdened by bloatware, programs offering little value but actively consuming resources. It is best to uninstall such apps immediately. If they keep reappearing, removing them with an antivirus could be the only way to get rid of them.
Ways to keep your phone safe and sound
It is not enough to identify the signs of viruses on your device. You must do something about them and improve your defense for tackling future threats.
- Only trusted apps from reliable sources. Pick apps from sources like App Store and Google Play Store. However, both can unknowingly distribute malicious applications. Thus, install verified and trusted tools only.
- Do not open links or attachments. Phishing can transmit links, videos, images, documents, or other files. Never download attachments from sources you are not familiar with. If your friend sends you a somewhat robotic message with a link, confirm whether it is them.
- Get an antivirus application for your smartphone. There are many antivirus apps focused on protecting smartphones. Install reputable titles and enjoy the protection they provide. Run automatic scans or manual ones if you notice any of the mentioned signs.
- Restoring devices to factory settings. If other solutions do not help, you can reset your phone to factory settings. It will restore your device to its original state. It is the last resort as all apps, personalized settings, and information will disappear.
- Protect devices on unfamiliar networks and block ads. Smartphone owners tend to connect to free Wi-Fi hotspots. However, they could end up having their devices compromised by malware due to an unsecured network. To safeguard each connection, we recommend Atlas VPN. We use industry-approved methods for encrypting and tunneling your data. Additionally, we offer an integrated Tracker Blocker. It prevents ads and potentially dangerous websites from loading.
Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.