It never fails: hackers and virus writers will find a way into whatever is the next technological “It” device to come along. If fun can be had or a profit can be made, then viruses will be created to target the devices. Smartphones have been around long enough to become the target of viruses and other malware, and Android phones are the most likely target.
Symptoms of smartphone viruses are quite similar to those for computers. Luckily, software developers are right behind the viruses, and there are software programs to detect and remove viruses from your Android smartphone.
What are the symptoms of a virus?
Viruses leave tell-tale symptoms on smartphones just like they do for computers. A big one for both forms of technology is a significant slow-down in the operations of the device. A smartphone will get slower and slower as you add pictures, music, and apps, but a virus will likely be a much more obvious slow-down.
Your smartphone may also seem to be possessed. Settings will change, new apps might be added, or your phone goes to sites seemingly all on its own; in fact, it is the virus or malware that is making all of the changes. Your smartphone might also make new beeps, dings, or chimes that usually don’t sound like any of the other alert signals you have set.
What are the dangers of a virus?
Having a virus on your Android smartphone is dangerous for a number of reasons. First, some viruses are aimed at causing problems for the user. Viruses can cripple or completely disable the usability of apps or the phone altogether.
Even more troubling, viruses can also be used to steal your personal information or rack up charges on your cell phone bill, according to an article on AARP.com. Viruses might record keystrokes, go through your phone and apps for personal information, or buy expensive apps or services that you won’t notice until you get your cell phone bill.
How did my Android phone get a virus in the first place?
The bulk of viruses get onto your smartphone from infected downloads. According to the AARP article, Google, the owner of Android, does not inspect the apps uploaded for sale on the Android Marketplace; anyone can upload a seemingly innocent app with a harmful virus.
Google will remove known threats, but it can’t check every single app for malware. According to a Los Angeles Times article, Google took actions to remove apps that carried the Droid Dream virus from the Android Marketplace in 2011, going so far as to remove it remotely from users’ devices.
Furthermore, there are third-party app stores; those apps can also harbor viruses. Really, anything that is downloaded has the potential to harbor malware.
Most viruses are written for Android phones because they have the largest share of the smartphone market. Additionally, the Android operating system is open, according to The Open Handset Alliance. This allows apps to have access to every aspect of the phone, if so designed.
It also means that a virus in an app can also have broad access to every aspect of an Android smartphone as well as everything the smartphone can do; manufacturers add some protections to the phone for this reason, but some people remove them in a process called ‘rooting.’
What can I do to detect and remove a virus?
Thankfully, there are programs for Android phones and other smartphones that can help you to scan your phone for viruses, detect viruses in downloads, and to remove viruses. Of course software is available; there is money to be made! However, it’s no different from any other threat and responding security option scenario. There are free options as well. Your best bet in choosing one is to research reviews and compare the capabilities of the various programs to find the one that fits your needs.
Further safeguards include reviewing the permissions any app is asking you to approve, according to AARP. Questionable permissions are one clue; why would an app need access to your contact list or the ability to send text messages?
Also, you should be careful about what you download, just as with computer downloads. Third-party site downloads are much more likely to have malicious add-ons; again, research reviews to see if anyone else has experienced virus troubles. Keep in mind that virus creators will modify innocent apps created by others by adding a virus; they then upload the tainted app, according to AARP.
Other tips include trying to avoid using unsecured wireless access, such as a public Wi-Fi signal. Criminals can detect your smartphone’s signal and intercept it to see your activity. Save banking and credit card related work for a secured network.
Furthermore, the experts at CIO.com —a group providing insight and analysis for IT professionals—advise that users never ‘root’ their Android phones, which removes those protections added by manufacturers in order to let the user access different apps.