The number of mobile malware attacks continues to grow as scammers get better at hiding the true nature of their apps. With nearly 5.2 billion mobile devices connecting to the internet around the world, hackers have their pick of the most vulnerable targets to infect. New kinds of malware appear every day that do anything from run annoying ads to steal personal information. This article will help you spot malicious apps before they infect your device.

What is Mobile malware?

Like its desktop counterpart, mobile malware is a piece of software that's intentionally designed to do harm. The different levels of damage vary from malware to malware. Some will open ads in an invisible window you can't interact with and click on them over and over again. This type generates ad revenue for the attacker and drains the battery of your device. Other malware might screen capture everything you do to steal your account details, credit card numbers or even blackmail you.

Mobile malware developers have to hide their work to get around the security that app stores have built in to stop malicious apps from entering their ecosystems. For example, the Play Store has a built-in virus scanner that's supposed to prevent dangerous apps from being uploaded to the store. Still, on any given day, devices are infected by malware that sneaks passed this detection method.

Once the app is on your device, it downloads the dangerous part of the app"

It's not entirely the fault of the scanner because newer forms of malware look completely innocent until they're installed. Because there's no malicious code in the app itself, it passes the scan. Once the app is on your device, it connects to a remote server controlled by the malware maker and downloads the dangerous part of the app. Neither the Android or Apple app stores scan apps after they've been installed on your device because they should be safe if they've passed the initial scan.

How can I get rid of malware once I'm infected?

On Android
If you already know the app you need to get rid of:

  • Hold the power button until Power off appears
  • Hold Power off until Safe mode appears
  • Tap Ok to restart in Safe mode
  • When your device restarts, tap Settings
  • Tap Apps
  • Scroll down the list of your installed apps until you see the one you want to remove
  • Tap the app
  • Tap Uninstall from the App Info window
  • Restart your device

If that doesn't fix your issue, your best option is to restore your device from a recent backup made before your device started acting up.

On iOS/iPadOS
If apps are opening up Safari and redirecting you to weird places, try clearing your Safari browsing data:

  • Go to Settings
  • Safari
  • Clear History and Website Data
  • Tap Clear History and Data
  • Check if that has fixed the issue

iOS has fewer options for removing malware because viruses and malware aren't as common on iOS. If clearing your history and resetting your data doesn’t fix your issue, your best option is to restore from a recent backup.

How do I keep malware off my device?

The best way to keep malware off your device is to stay offline and not download apps. Since you have to use your device to keep in touch with the world, that's completely unrealistic. Anti-virus software is still how most people protect their devices. It’s important to keep your anti-virus up to date so it can help protect you from new threats, even if you accidentally install a malicious app.

make sure you back up regularly so you don't lose important files

Another way is to protect yourself is to make regular device backups. Apps like iTunes make backing up your iPhone/iPad fast and easy. If you notice your device is slowing down, draining battery quickly or just being weird, you can quickly retore from an old backup to get it working again. The trick is, you have to make sure you back up regularly so you don’t lose important files, like all the amazing photos and videos you've taken. You don’t want to have to do a factory reset, but it might be your only option if you don’t have a recent backup.

Secure your devices

Security doesn’t just happen on its own, it takes some effort and attention to detail. To keep your device secure, don’t download sketchy apps or answer unknown messages. Don't open any attachments from people you don’t know, in an email or a text message. Back up your device often, and make sure the backup is somewhere safe so you don’t lose it. You should also think about installing some well known and trusted security apps.

While you're securing your device, you should think about securing your internet connection too. TunnelBear helps protect your privacy by blocking a lot of the common ways people and companies track you online. You can learn more on our What is a VPN page, or use our free trial to take TunnelBear for a test spin.

Happy tunneling,
the TunnelBear Team