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With nearly 84% of the world’s population now owning a smartphone, and our dependence on them growing all the time, these devices have become an attractive avenue for scammers making it hard to avoid phone virus.
Last year, cyber security company Kaspersky detected nearly 3.5 million malicious attacks on mobile phone users. The spam messages we get on our phones via text message or email will often contain links to viruses, which are a type of malicious software (malware).
Can iPhone and Android devices get viruses?
iPhones and Android devices run on different operating systems. So, there are differences in the viruses that affect each type of mobile device and how resistant each operating system is to viruses.
Android phones are also designed with cybersecurity in mind, their reliance on open-source code makes them an easier target for hackers. Android devices allow users to access third-party apps that are not available in the Google Play Store.
Viruses have a harder time penetrating iOS because of its design (although iOS hacks can still happen). By restricting interactions between apps, Apple’s operating system limits the movement of an iPhone virus across the device. However, if you jailbreak your iPhone or iPad to unlock tweaks or install third-party apps, then the security restrictions set by Apple’s OS won’t work. This exposes iPhone users to vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit.
Main types of phone viruses
Cybercriminals today are sophisticated and can launch a variety of cyberattacks on your smartphone. Some viruses that can infect your phone include:
- Malware: Malware encompasses programs that steal your information or take control of your device without your permission.
- Adware: These are ads that can access information on your device if you click on them.
- Spyware: This tracks your browsing activity, then steals your data or affects your phone’s performance.
- Trojan: Aptly named, this type of virus hides inside an app to take control of or affect your phone and data.
- Ransomware: These prevent you from accessing your phone again unless you pay a ransom to the hacker. The hacker may use personal data like your pictures as blackmail.
How do phones get viruses?
Just like computers get viruses, so are smartphones. The most common include:
- Clicking on links or attachments from unverified sources. These are most commonly distributed as emails and SMS.
- Clicking on seemingly innocent ads that take you to an unsecured webpage or download mobile malware to your device.
- Visiting suspicious websites, often by ignoring security warnings.
- Downloading malicious apps from an unverified source, usually outside the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
- Connecting your phone to an unsecured internet connection like public Wi-Fi. You require a secure VPN that makes it safe to use unsecured Wi-Fi networks by encrypting your data.
Signs that your Phone is affected by a Virus
Now that you have learnt that your smartphone can be affected by a virus, lets delve into the signs that your phone is affected by a virus.
- Your device feels physically hot. Your phone isn’t built to support malware. When you accidentally download apps that contain malware, the device has to work harder to continue functioning. In this case, your phone might be overheating.
- You see random pop-up ads or new apps. Most pop-up ads don’t carry viruses but are only used as marketing tools. However, if you find yourself shutting pop-up ads more often than usual, it might indicate a virus on your phone. Don’t open any apps in your library that you don’t remember installing. Instead, uninstall them immediately. These apps tend to carry malware that’s activated when the app is opened or used.
- Random messages are sent to your contacts. If your contacts receive unsolicited scam emails or messages on social media from your account, especially those containing suspicious links, a virus may have accessed your contact list. It’s best to let all the recipients know that your phone has been hacked so that they don’t download any malware themselves or forward those links to anybody else.
- The device responds slowly. An unusually slow-performing device is a hint of suspicious activity on your phone. The device may slow down because it needs to work harder to support the downloaded virus. Alternatively, unfamiliar apps might be taking up storage space and running background tasks, causing your phone to run slowly.
- You find fraudulent charges on your accounts. Be sure to follow up on charges on your credit card or transactions in your banking statements that you don’t recognize. It could be an unfamiliar app or malware making purchases through your account without your knowledge.
- The phone uses excess data. A sudden rise in your data usage or phone bill can be suspicious. A virus might be running background processes or using your internet connection to transfer data out of your device for malicious purposes.
- Your battery drains quickly. An unusually quick battery drain may also cause concern. Your phone will be trying to meet the energy requirements of the virus, so this problem is likely to persist for as long as the virus is on the device.
How to remove a virus from Android and iPhone
If you detect a virus on your iPhone or Android device, there are several things you can do.
- Download antivirus software to help you locate existing viruses and malware. By identifying the exact problem, you know what to get rid of and how to protect your device in the future.
- Do a thorough sweep of your app library to make sure that whatever apps are on your phone were downloaded by you. Delete any apps that aren’t familiar.
- To protect your information, delete any sensitive text messages and clear history regularly from your mobile browsers. Empty the cache in your browsers and apps.
- In some instances, you may need to reboot your smartphone to its original factory settings. This can lead to data loss, so be sure to back up important documents to the cloud.
- Create strong passwords for all your accounts after cleaning up your phone.
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