What is malware?
Malware defines any piece of software with the intent to corrupt and damage your private, personal information. It is designed to infiltrate and damage your network, server, PC, or phone so that the user behind the software can gain access to your confidential information. Data such as bank details, social media passwords, and GPS location information are all likely to be snatched.
Your laptop or smartphone can get infected with malicious software quite easily if you’re not aware of the dangers while browsing online.
How to recognise malware on your devices
Like a disease, there are multiple symptoms to look out for to identify the presence of malicious apps and viruses on your devices.
- Apps taking longer to load or install - if you open an app, and the logo stares at you for longer than normal, your laptop or phone might be infected. This is because malicious apps break down and damage whatever software was there, so that it doesn’t function properly anymore
- Random apps showing up - if you didn’t download an app, but it has appeared on your screen, this is a sure sign of an intruder on your device
- Battery draining - if your battery has suddenly started draining faster than normal, this could be due to a malware infection disrupting your phone
- People receive odd messages from you and your accounts - though the odd spam email can be passed around, if your contacts are receiving multiple messages from your accounts, you’ve been hacked
- Data usage - if your data usage suddenly increases without you using it, then it’s clear someone else has access to your device
- Pop-ups appearing more frequently - if you keep getting ads flashing on your screen, more than usual, it could be a sign of malware attempting to further corrupt your data
A PC or laptop that has been infected by malware will see similar slowness and disruption.
How to protect from malware
There are a few things you can do to try to avoid infecting your devices in the first place.
- Beware of fake phones - these are phones that look exactly like the real deal but are fake versions filled with malware. Only buy from legitimate manufacturers and suppliers, be sceptical of suspiciously low prices for newer phones, and make sure you know what you’re expecting to see on the interface of your iPhone or Android, as criminals can often miss things out
- Only download from Google Play or Apple App store - only download apps from the official app stores for your devices, as these have safety processes in place to make sure apps are safe. Android has a built-in system called Google Play Protect, which scans apps as they’re installed
- Check permissions - check the terms of apps before downloading to spot errors or issues in privacy
- Don’t use pirate software - not only is this illegal but they can harbour a whole host of malicious viruses
- Avoid jailbreaking your phone - e.g. enabling modifying of the core system. Don’t give apps permission to make changes to your phone. Sometimes this is necessary on laptops to allow the installation of certain apps, games, or software, but make sure you know they are real and safe before agreeing to this
- Extra security - downloading extra security is a good idea to provide more levels of defence against malicious intrusion. There are plenty of free antivirus apps out there
Removing malicious apps and viruses
If you’re unfortunate enough to get hacked by someone or realise your device is infected, there are several ways you can try to remove it.
You can buy, download, and install antimalware software. These apps will scan your device for malicious apps and viruses, uninstall or delete those apps or bugs, and also provide future protection against other attacks
If you want to try and fix things manually, follow the following steps:
- Ensure your data is backed up
- Clear your history and data by going to Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data
- Shut down and restart your iPhone
- If the malware is still there, you can try to restore your backed-up information from before the malware hit
- If this still doesn’t work, erase your phone by going to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings
This is a last resort, as it will wipe your phone clean, so you have to start from scratch - but at least the malware will be gone.
Like the iPhone, you can download and install antimalware software, but if you want to do this manually, then follow these steps:
- Shut off the Android phone to avoid further spreading of malware
- Activate safe mode by: Holding the power button > tap Restart > Click Reboot to Safe mode > Hold the Volume down button until your device comes up > Safe mode in the lower left corner
- You’ll need to change the phone’s administrators settings to stop the malware from protecting itself. To do this, go to: Settings > Security > Device Administrator > Deactivate the malware’s access to reconfigure the settings
- Then you need to find and uninstall the app that brought the malware onto your Android. Go to Settings > Apps > App Manager > Select the infected apps > Uninstall/Force close > Uninstall or Disable to remove the suspicious app or apps
As a last ditch effort, you can also perform a full factory reset.
If the malware is on your PC/laptop, you can try to manually remove it without going to a specialist technology company.
- Download a malware removal software
- Activate safe mode
Mac: Switch on the Mac, press Shift until the logo appears.
Windows: Restart the computer, press Shift when the logo appears, press Power and Restart, choose Options, select Troubleshoot, Advanced options, Startup Settings, Restart, F4.
- Go to: Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Cleanup > Delete List > and delete the temporary files
- Run a scan on the antimalware software you downloaded at the beginning
- Reinstall any files that were damaged and removed that you need, but make sure the new software is malware-free
If this still hasn’t worked, try performing a system restore to a point earlier in time.
- Only download and install apps from the official stores
- Check permissions on apps before installing
- Never click on pop-up ads or open links in unfamiliar texts or emails
- Download and regularly scan your devices with antivirus and antimalware software