The Ultimate Android Malware Removal Guide (2022)

Person pulling malware from an Android smartphone using tweezers
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Summary: The Ultimate Android Malware Removal Guide (2022)

Despite its immense popularity, the Android operating system remains vulnerable to security issues. It is susceptible to different kinds of malware that spread through text messages, software vulnerabilities, Bluetooth and infected apps on the app store.

To remove Android malware from a device, here’s what you must do:

  • First, delete all unused and suspicious apps.
  • Alternatively, an antivirus scanner, like Avira, can detect and remove infected apps for you.
  • If this does not resolve the problem, you can try clearing your browsing data and downloads.
  • Failing all else, you’ll have to factory reset your phone.

In any case, it’s best to prevent Android malware infections in the first place. This can be done by not clicking on suspicious links, downloading apps only from the Play Store, and keeping your operating system and apps updated.

Using a VPN is highly recommended if you want to protect against malicious content on your device. NordVPN comes with Threat Protection built-in, which protects against harmful threats and malware.

Interested in learning more about how Android malware spreads and what else you can do to protect your device? read the full article below!

Android is the most popular operating system in the world. Nearly 70% of all mobile devices today run on Android. Despite its popularity, Android remains vulnerable to malware of different types due to its open-source nature.

Research by Panda Security suggests that Android devices are 47 times more likely than iOS devices to be infected by malware.

Since Android devices are vulnerable to security issues, users must know how to check for malware on Android. Additionally, users should also learn how to remove malware from Android to keep their devices secure.

This article explains the different kinds of Android malware and how they spread. It also provides a step-by-step guide on how to remove malware from Android devices.


How Does Android Malware Spread?

Infographic showing how does android malware spread

Android devices are susceptible to numerous kinds of malware, each of which spreads in many different ways. Users must understand the impact that Android viruses can have on their devices as well as the primary channels of infection to keep their devices secure. The most common vectors for the spread of Android malware are:

Text and chat messages

URLs contained in text or chat messages are a primary vector for the spread of Android malware. The links usually lead to web pages that dupe users into installing infected apps. These apps request different kinds of app permissions during installation and are able to control the phone thereafter.

Hackers can extract sensitive and personal information, such as credit card details, from infected devices. They can also access the contact list and send bulk messages or make phone calls. A few common examples of viruses and spyware that spread through SMS and chat messages are TangleBot, Medusa, and FluBot.

Malicious apps downloaded via the Play Store

Google has made several efforts, such as Play Protect, to ensure that users cannot download malicious apps from the Play Store. Despite this, the Play Store remains rife with malicious apps infected with Android viruses.

Hackers evade security checks by using clever workarounds. For instance, they initially upload uninfected versions of an app and then inject the malware using a software update.

Moreover, several Android users download their app stores from third-party app stores, such as the Huawei App Gallery. These alternatives do not always have stringent security requirements and are used to spread malware.

Malicious apps can bloat android phones with annoying and intrusive pop-up ads. They can also unknowingly subscribe users to expensive subscription services, resulting in financial loss.

Software vulnerabilities

Programming an operating system like Android is a complex task. The code for the software can sometimes contain vulnerabilities that developers did not notice. Hackers often exploit such vulnerabilities to spread Android viruses.  For example, a high-risk zero-day vulnerability was discovered in Android as recently as November.

Malware spread through zero-day vulnerabilities can be particularly concerning, allowing hackers to snoop on devices and steal all kinds of sensitive personal data.

Bluetooth

Malware has also been known to spread via Bluetooth. In earlier versions of Android, hackers could use Bluetooth to remotely install Android viruses on devices. While recent versions cannot be infected in this manner, Bluetooth can still be used to push android virus-infected files that are opened by unsuspecting users.

Now that we’ve understood how Android viruses spread, let’s look at common signs that indicate an Android malware infection.


6 Signs That Indicate an Android Malware Infection

Infographic showing six signs of android malware

In most cases, users became aware of virus infections through disruptions in their device’s functionality. Some of the most common symptoms of a malware infection on Android are:

  1. Persistent and  intrusive ads across different apps
  2. Reduction in the phone’s speed and performance
  3. Faster-than-usual battery drain
  4. The appearance of new apps that you don’t remember installing
  5. Frequent app crashes
  6. Unexplained increase in phone bills and data usage

If you’re facing one or a combination of these symptoms, it’s possible that your device is infected with Android malware. To detect and identify the malware, it’s important to scan your device. The next section explains how you can check for malware on Android.


How to Check for Malware on Android

The best and most reliable way to check for malware on Android is to do a complete and thorough scan of the device. Earlier, doing a scan would require downloading an antivirus app. However, Google’s Play Protect has inbuilt device scanning capabilities that let users check for malware on Android. Here’s how you can scan an Android Smartphone using Play Protect:

  1. Go to the Google Play Store app
  2. Click on the circular icon in the top left corner. The icon is usually the picture used by your Google account or the first letter of your name.
  3. Select Play Protect from the Menu that appears.
  4. Click on the Scan option. Play Protect will now run a scan of apps on your device.
  5. Review and remove any harmful apps that were found once the scan is complete.

While Play Protect is the most convenient way to check for malware on Android, it does a poor job of detecting android viruses. As per AV-Test, a leading antivirus testing company, Play Protect only detected 55.2% of recently discovered Android malware.

This pales in comparison to leading antivirus scanners, such as Avira and AVG, which almost had a 100% detection rate.


How to Remove Malware from Android

Once you know that your device has been infected with Android malware, it’s essential that you remove it at the earliest. The most straightforward way to remove Android malware is to uninstall the infected app. This can be usually done from within Google Play.

Alternatively, you can go to Phone Settings and look for Apps or App Management. Here, you should be able to see a list of all the apps installed on your Android device.

Scroll through the list and delete any apps that are not frequently used or ones you don’t remember installing. Keep a lookout for fake versions of Voicemail, AdBlocker, and FedEx or DHL apps as these are known to spread malware such as FluBot.

In some cases, you may be unable to delete the apps from the Settings. This happens because the infected app has gained administrator privileges and actively prevents you from uninstalling it.

Uninstalling such apps will require revoking their administrator privileges through the Device admin apps in the Settings menu. It’s best to reboot your Android device into safe mode before disabling or uninstalling admin apps.

If deleting the app doesn’t help, you can try clearing your downloads and browser data which deletes any potentially malicious apps downloaded from the web.

The best way to remove most kinds of Android malware is to use an antivirus scanner app. These apps simplify the process of detection and removal for users.

They also save considerable time as users no longer have to scroll through the entire app list to find suspicious apps.

Use a VPN to protect your Android device from malware

Using a VPN on your Android device is an excellent way to protect it against malware. NordVPN is one of the best choices right now and comes with a dedicated Threat Protection feature.

This protects against malicious websites and pop-ups that could infect your device. Using a VPN also encrypts your traffic and protects your device, thus reducing the chances of you downloading malicious content on your Android device.

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How to Prevent Android Malware

Preventing Android malware from infecting your device in the first place is the best option to keep it secure. It helps avoid getting caught up in the malware detection and removal process, which can be quite complicated at times.

Infographic showing steps how to prevent android malware

Luckily, preventing malware infections is not too hard. Simply following the steps listed below should help prevent most Android malware infections:

  1. Keep your software up to date: vulnerabilities in AndroidOS are usually fixed through patches and updates. As a result, it’s important to ensure that your device is running the most recent update. Most Android phones automatically install the latest update. You can always check if an update is available from the Settings menu
  2. Avoid clicking on suspicious links: suspicious links and attachments in messages and emails should not be opened as they can inject malware into the device. Even if you do open such a link or attachment, never download or install the files they contain.
  3. Download apps only from the Play Store: unlike iOS, Android allows users to load apps from the web or other app stores. However, these apps are usually not security tested. Resultantly, it’s advisable to stick to the Play Store for your app downloads.
  4. Keep Bluetooth turned off in public places: given that Android viruses can spread through Bluetooth, it’s advisable to turn off your Bluetooth when venturing outside. Alternatively, you can set your device to be undiscoverable by others while keeping your paired devices connected.
  5. Install a reliable antivirus scanner: As we’ve covered earlier, an antivirus scanner can solve most Android malware-related problems. Top providers, like Bitdefender, offer not only an antivirus scanner but also protection from cookies, a virtual private network, and backup services. It’s an all-in-one security solution for your device.
  6. Use a VPN: A VPN such as NordVPN comes with Threat Protection built-in, so it’ll automatically help you filter out malicious content online.

In Conclusion

This guide should help Android users identify, detect, and remove malware from their devices. Additionally, the steps identified in the previous section are generally useful for other devices, such as a laptop or a tablet as well. For more information on computer viruses and ways to prevent them, check out the following articles:

  1. What Is a Computer Virus? How Can You Protect Yourself?
  2. What Is Antivirus Software and How Does It Work? 
  3. WhatsApp Scams: What is WhatsApp Fraud and How Do You Prevent It?
  4. What Is FluBot Malware? How to Detect, Remove, and Prevent It
The Ultimate Android Malware Removal Guide: Frequently Asked Questions

Malware is a serious problem on Android devices. Check the FAQ section below for some quick tips on detecting, removing and preventing Android malware.

Yes, Android devices are quite vulnerable to malware infections that spread through text messages, fake apps, software vulnerabilities, and Bluetooth. The malware can affect the performance of the device in several ways. It can also harm the user by stealing personal sensitive information and making unauthorized transactions. But, you can follow this Android malware removal guide to get rid of it!

Use the steps listed below to scan your Android for malware using Google Play Protect:

  1. Open the Google Play Store app
  2. Click on the circular icon in the top left of the screen to open the Play Store menu
  3. Select the Play Protect option in the menu
  4. Click on the green Scan icon

It’s important to note that Play Protect doesn’t have a high malware detection rate. As a result, some malware on your device may go unnoticed. Hence, it’s best to use a reputable antivirus scanner app, like Bitdefender.

The easiest way to remove the antivirus from Android is to use an antivirus scanner app. The app will scan your device to detect malicious apps and files. You can then choose to delete or retain the files.

Android malware can be removed manually by deleting suspicious apps and clearing your browsing history and downloads. You can follow our guide to easily remove malware from Android.

Tech journalist
Mohit is a legal and public policy researcher whose work focuses largely on technology regulation. At VPNOverview, he writes about cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies and sports events.