Recognising Malicious Apps and Viruses

You will no doubt be familiar with the issue of laptops or computers getting viruses. You may have come across them from time to time, but what about your smartphone?

Last updated: 20th Dec 2019 at 10:23am

As the popularity of the smartphone rises, more phones are selling than laptops and personal computers. Our phones can now do everything our laptops can and so we start using them in the same way. That might mean entering personal information, such as bank or payment details.

You might use your phone for online banking or shopping from your favourite online retailers. Also, phones collect lots of data as we use them. The data can include GPS location information and more. As a result of this, hackers now target smartphones to get hold of your personal information.

The ways that criminals can gain access to your phones can be through viruses, but we also see an increase in malicious apps. So, how do you know if your phone is vulnerable?

Let's take a look at how you can recognise malicious apps and viruses.

Protecting your smartphone data

There are some simple things you can do to keep your smartphone information safe; these include:

  • Only download apps from official app stores (Google Play, Apple App Store, etc.)
  • Check permissions before installing apps
  • Don't use pirate software
  • Avoid jailbreaking your phone (enabling modifying of the core system)

Your phone should only have apps from official app stores. When you get a new handset, the official app store is already preloaded. Avoid other stores that are not officially recognised by the makers of the operating system on your phone.

Before you download an app, look at the permissions it will require. You can see these on the description in the app store. If someone has the software you want and offers you a copy, don't use it. You can't be sure the pirate software is virus-free.

A trend in jailbreaking phones has made them more susceptible to viruses or malicious software. Smartphones have a setup that includes security protection. If you choose to change this setup by jailbreaking it, you make the phone vulnerable. 

How to spot if your smartphone has a virus

You can detect a virus on your smartphone if you start to notice the following:

  • New apps suddenly appear
  • Battery life reduces faster than before
  • Friends and contacts receive strange texts or emails from your accounts
  • Your data usage increases for no apparent reason
  • Pop-up adverts and notifications start appearing more frequently

If new apps appear and you didn't add them, you may have a malicious app or virus. The app could be adding further new apps to your smartphone. A virus will consume more battery power. So, if you see your phone battery life decreasing a lot, you may have an issue.

These malicious apps also use your phone to send out spam messages and emails. If your friends receive messages from you and you know you didn't send them, you may have been hacked. Malicious apps will also use up your data and will create invasive pop-ups and ads. 

Removing malicious apps and viruses from a smartphone

If you notice any of these things or think that you have a virus on your phone, you can take the following steps to remove it. To get a virus off your phone, you can:

  • Check recently installed apps - new apps will have ratings and reviews on the app store so you can see if other people have the same problem. Delete any new apps you have downloaded to see if this fixes the issue.
  • Check permissions (Android phones) - you can see what permissions apps have and identify a problem app. If your phone is sending texts or emails, check which apps have access to these features.
  • Install an antivirus app - you will find several free antivirus apps that can scan your phone. Download an app, and it will scan and fix issues for you. It will also continue to monitor and protect your phone.

So, don't let your phone be a victim of a virus or malicious apps. Follow these simple steps to make your phone safer.

  • Only use your phones official app store.
  • Ignore software pop-up ads as within other applications as these can be a way that hackers get you to use their apps.
  • Regularly check your phone app permissions.
  • Use an antivirus app to protect your phone from viruses.
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