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  • Updated: June 24, 2021

How To Detect, Prevent, Remove Malware From Devices

How To Detect, Prevent, Remove Malware From Devices

The internet being the global village can be safe and secured only if all users make effort to detect, prevent and remove malware from their devices.

Malware is any class of software that is created to harm a device. Malware collects sensitive data from any kind of device it enters and gradually slows down the device or even sends malicious and fake information, most times to destroy the device.

This article will serve as a guard to readers on how to best prevent, protect and remove malware from devices.

How mobile Devices Get Malware:

By downloading malicious apps

According to cybernews, the most common means hackers use to spread malware is through apps and downloads. The apps gotten from the official app store are usually safe, but apps that are “pirated,” or come from less legitimate sources often contain malware. These are apps that appear to be legitimate but instead contain spyware or other types of malware.

From time to time, an app with malware will make it through to an official app store. An example is InstaAgent, an app that stole Instagram user credentials and sent them to a third-party server without the knowledge of the user. These apps are usually discovered and taken care of quickly, but they must have caused the damage.

Sometimes developers use pirated tools, and everything developed using these tools will then contain malicious code, which may steal sensitive data or damage the mobile device.

Download only from reputable app stores. That usually prevents you from coming across malware-infected apps.

By using a Device with operating system vulnerabilities

Device manufacturers understand that some of the devices are vulnerable but usually, these vulnerabilities are discovered fairly quickly and patched up, but users that do not regularly update the software on their device, such device will be vulnerable. It’s critical to keep the device up to date, or hackers can exploit those discovered vulnerabilities.

By opening suspicious emails

By receiving an email that says you’ve won something (a Coca-Cola, a box of pizza, a tablet, a vacation, etc). You open the email and click on the link, and nothing happens, or you’ve been directed to a dummy site. By doing this, Malware would automatically download and installed on the device. The data on the device may now be exposed to hackers therefore, avoid opening suspicious emails on your phone.

By using non-secure Wi-Fi/URLs or free VPN

By accessing insecure websites, you run the risk of exposing sensitive data transmitted from your device. You’re also more vulnerable to attacks, and being exposed to malware. Avoid using insecure websites and Wi-Fi networks that are not secured. Also, there are dozens of free VPNs out there that promise to protect your privacy by keeping you anonymous on the internet and hiding your browsing history. Don’t believe it. Free VPNs are bad for you. Where VPNs try to solve a problem, they can also expose you to far greater privacy risks.

The browser itself on your phone could also be a source of vulnerabilities. This can lead to web browser attacks. Attacks like these are more common on android devices. Make sure you have the most current version of whatever browser you use.

By receiving text message/voicemail phishing

Hackers often use text message or a voicemail from what appears to be a legitimate source asking for personal information either about you or your device to steal whatever data they can, including social security numbers, credit card data, etc. They may even be able to use it to make a targeted attack to install malware on your phone.

Whenever such text appears on the device, call the company on their legitimate phone and verify with them. Never give out sensitive information through text. Sometimes, even replying to a text can be dangerous, so you should immediately delete any suspicious texts and attempt to contact the company directly.

How to protect your phone from viruses

Just like the general cliche about your physical health, that "prevention is better than cure." Protecting yourself against malware should not be too difficult.

Consider installing a strong antivirus on your phone.

Don’t install apps from third-party app stores.

Don’t jailbreak or root your phone.

Keep your phone updated. If you no longer receive timely software updates, purchase a new phone.

Be careful and exercise caution when installing apps, browsing the web, and following instructions.

How to know if a phone has a virus

Viruses can be tricky to find because their symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other phone issues. In general, if you have multiple issues that you can’t easily explain, you might have malware. Before taking any drastic measures to rid yourself of malware, you should verify that your phone issues are, in fact, caused by viruses.

Overheating or battery drain

Malware like Ransomware mine Bitcoin, click on ads or perform other nefarious tasks in the background that cause your phone to heat up. Aside from worse performance and battery life and this processor-intensive malware can make your phone hot.

Not all phone overheating is malware-related, but this is a fairly common symptom that you shouldn’t ignore.

Meanwhile, most battery drain issues aren’t caused by malware. Check Settings > Battery > Battery Health on iOS or an app like AccuBattery on Android to see if your battery has degraded. Over time, batteries start to hold less charge. This isn’t something you can reverse; it’s just how batteries work.

Also, check which apps are using your battery, then make sure the battery hasn’t degraded. If there is no good explanation for why your battery is draining so fast, you might have malware.

Unexpected ads, redirects, or pop-ups

The ultimate purpose of malware is to make money for its maker. This could mean flooding your device with ads. If sites or apps that are normally ad-free or ad-light suddenly become filled with ads, pop-ups, and redirects to sketchy sites, here are some possibilities:

The service has changed ownership or been compromised.

Your network is injecting ads into insecure (HTTP) connections.

Your phone has viruses or malware.

This symptom is rare on iOS but very common on Android especially when a trusted app is covered by an ad caused by malware.

Unwanted, suspicious new apps

Check to make sure that you’re not signed into a shared iCloud or Google account before you start worrying about malware. Both iOS and Android have features that can sync apps across devices.

To check whether you’re using Family Sharing on iPhone, go to Settings > [your name] > Family Sharing. On Android, go to Google Play > Account > Family.

If this isn’t the case, Your device is affected.

Extreme Data Usage

malware does not care about your data. If an app you hardly use eats up tons of data you might have a virus.

Malware on iOS

Apple devices are well protected against malware nonetheless, you can still inadvertently install malware on your iPhone. Malware on iOS generally comes from one of a few places:

Jailbreaking. This involves bypassing the iPhone’s security restrictions. When you jailbreak your phone to install apps and tweaks that aren’t approved by Apple, you can mistakenly install malicious software as well.

Compromised networks. Although this issue isn’t technically malware, it presents similar symptoms. Pop-ups and unexpected ads on insecure sites (HTTP, not HTTPS) are symptoms of a compromised network.

Stolen iCloud credentials. Apple ID credentials in possession of hackers can do all sorts of things to your devices and accounts, so it’s just as dangerous as actual malware.

Security bypasses due to old software. New iOS versions nearly always include fixes for critical security issues. Historically, many iOS devices have been compromised through known vulnerabilities that were already patched in newer iOS updates.

Nation-state-level hacking. Human rights activists, journalists, and other high-value targets are frequently attacked by governments and other powerful adversaries. One extremely advanced example was likely government-commissioned and could not be stopped until Apple patched the vulnerabilities.

Malware on Android

Plenty of viruses are still out there however, Google has greatly improved Android security to prevent easy access to devices. Here are a few of the most common places where viruses come from on Android:

Third-party app stores. Users occasionally choose to get apps outside of the Google Play Store. Doing this can be dangerous, as these alternative stores aren’t subject to Google’s malware screening.

Malicious Play Store apps. Although both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store occasionally contain malware, the Play Store contains more total apps and less human screening. Google quickly removes any malicious apps from the Play Store as soon as they’re discovered, but millions of users would have installed these apps before they are discovered.

Rooting. Like jailbreaking on iOS, rooting an Android device gives the user more control—at the expense of security features. The same is true for custom ROMs, which give users even more complete control.

How to remove malware from an iPhone

Antivirus for iOS does not exist as a result of the security features baked into iPhones. Antivirus software requires deep, unfettered access to the operating system’s internals, something that Apple is not keen to allow.

So, here are some steps you can take to get rid of a virus and different kinds of malware on your iPhone:

Reboot your iPhone. Simple, unsophisticated viruses can be removed with a reboot. This kind of malware is known as non-persistent malware.

Connect to a different network. Network-related issues can be solved by connecting to another network or using LTE instead of Wi-Fi. This might stop additional pop-ups and ads on HTTP sites. If doing this does not fix the issue, you’ll need to try more drastic measures.

Change your iCloud password and add 2FA. Changing your iCloud password and adding two-factor authentication stops account takeovers. Be sure to also remove any unrecognized devices from your Apple ID.

Perform a complete wipe of your iPhone. If all else fails, wiping your device completely should remove any trace of malicious software from the phone itself.

Performing a complete wipe

Using Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings is not enough when dealing with malware. Smart viruses may be able to survive that sort of wipe since it does not completely remove and reinstall the operating system. 

To guarantee that every piece of software on your iPhone is set up anew, perform a complete wipe like this:

Make a complete backup of your important data. Copy your photos, text messages, and other important data onto a trusted computer or another device.

iCloud Backup is normally a great way to back up your phone, but it won’t work this time. Restoring a backup from iCloud could bring back the malware as well. Instead, manually copy all the data you want to keep.

Put your device into recovery mode following Apple’s official instructions. The process differs slightly depending on which generation of iPhone you have.

Plug your phone into a trusted Mac or Windows PC. Make sure you have iTunes installed if you’re using Windows.

Choose Restore in the window that pops up. This will erase all the data on your device.

Performing Complete Wipe on iPhone

Wait until your iPhone finishes installing iOS and set it up. Don’t restore from an iCloud backup—if you do, you might inadvertently bring back the virus.

Install your apps and bring back your data. Be on the lookout for anything suspicious to avoid reinstalling malware.

How to remove malware from an Android phone

Android works differently from iOS in a variety of ways. Apps have more access to the operating system, which is a double-edged sword. Android antivirus software can be legitimately effective, unlike iOS antivirus software. However, viruses can do more damage as well.

Try these steps to fix your malware problem and remove a virus from your Android phone:

Remove unrecognized apps. Unrecognized apps will often be the culprit of your malware problems.

Try a different network or connection method. Sometimes, your malware-like symptoms will be caused by the network you’re connected to. If your problem is pop-ups and other similar issues, trying a different network may help to remedy them. You may also try switching between Wi-Fi and mobile data to see if that provides the fix you’re looking for.

Change your Google account password and add 2FA

Use a strong password and two-factor authentication on your Google account. This will neutralise possible account takeovers, stopping attackers in their tracks.

Perform a complete wipe of your Android device

Wiping your phone should be taken as a last resort, but it will fix the overwhelming majority of malware issues.

Here’s how to wipe your phone effectively:

Make a backup of your data onto a trusted computer. Don’t rely on Google’s backup features.

Remove your Google account, lock screen passcode, and manufacturer’s account like a Samsung account (depending on your phone brand).

Settings on Android with Accounts and backup visible

Perform a factory reset on your phone. This setting can be found in different locations on your phone.

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