If your Android phone is behaving strangely, whether its battery is running out faster than usual or seeing too many pop-up ads, it’s worth scanning your Android for malware.
Android phones are widely used thanks to their customizability but are also more prone to malware than their iPhone counterparts. From dodgy apps on the Google Play Store to malicious files hiding on fake websites, hackers can infect your Android with malware right under your nose in several ways.
Knowing if your Android has malware can be tricky, but there’s an easy way to detect malicious software on your device.
For those who use Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, OnePlus or any other Android device, this guide will help you discover the best ways to scan your Android phone for malware using reliable antivirus software.
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How to scan Android for malware
To remove any malicious software on your Android, follow the steps below. We recommend following each step, as different kinds of malware can be difficult to spot.
If you find any unfamiliar apps you don’t need, uninstall these Android apps safely.
Check for unfamiliar apps
With over 3 million apps on the Google Play Store, it’s common for Android users to download dozens of apps for different use cases and eventually forget they are installed. Unfortunately, hackers exploit this by hiding malware-infected apps in plain sight. Once an app is installed, threat actors can update apps to change the icon image and title or hide the app on your Android’s home screen.
Scroll through all your Android apps in the App Drawer and check for unfamiliar apps you don’t remember installing.
Check your battery life
Malware is known to use your Android device’s resources in the background, making it harder for users to detect malicious activity. On a mobile device, this can deplete its daily battery life. If your Android’s battery life is running out sooner than expected, it’s worth checking Battery settings to see if an app is causing the issue.
Head into Settings > Battery > Battery Usage to check if any unfamiliar apps are consuming a high amount of your Android’s battery life.
Watch out for pop-up ads
While pop-up advertisements are inevitable in apps and browsers when scrolling through websites, seeing too many is concerning.
If an app or website keeps redirecting you to different web pages and installing unwanted toolbars, extensions or plugins, it could be a sign of adware on your Android.
Use antivirus software on Android
The best way to get rid of malware is to use the best antivirus software.
There are many free malware removal apps that will dispatch malicious software on your device, but it’s a good idea to make sure these tools are trustworthy, as hackers can also disguise these apps on the Google Play Store to deploy even more malware.
The best antivirus apps come with a suite of security features that can get rid of virus, malware, ransomware, spyware or any malicious software that burrows into your Android. Some antivirus software, such as Bitdefender, offers security subscriptions specifically for Android, making it a more cost-effective option for those that only need Android protection.
We also recommend free apps from known cybersecurity companies, including Avast One, AVG and Malwarebytes Mobile Security. These will detect and remove malicious software on your Android. Check out our thoughts on each antivirus below.
- Norton 360 Platinum review: Security multiplied
- Bitdefender review: All-in-one premium security
- Avast One review: Strong antivirus for free!
Signs of malware on Android
Malware can be hard to spot, as cybercriminals will do everything in their power to hide the malicious software so they can carry out their cruel acts right under a user’s nose. However, there are telltale signs that your Android is under attack, which may include your device’s browser (like Google Chrome) redirecting you to different web pages and installing unwanted toolbars, extensions or plugins. Any malware can also affect your device directly.
- Your device is slower than usual and crashes frequently.
- Your browser is slower than usual and crashes frequently.
- Browsing through websites takes longer.
- You need to recharge your device more often.
- Apps take longer to load.
- There’s an unknown app or software on your device you didn’t download.
- Pop-up ads appear more frequently.
- You Android is overheating.
How does Android get malware?
There are numerous ways malware can infect your Android. From adware and Trojans to ransomware and spyware, hackers use all kinds of malware to loot your personal and financial data – and all it takes is a mistaken click on a dodgy website, malicious email attachment or suspicious app on the Play Store that has slipped through the cracks.
A popular method for hackers to infect mobile devices is through apps. There are plenty of examples of malware on Android apps, as it’s an easy way to trick potential victims into downloading legitimate-looking apps. The Google Play Store for Android users sees apps infested with malware make their way onto users’ devices (such as the FluHorse and Fleckpe Android malware).
What’s more, Android phones have easier access to third-party app stores. While some of these stores can be a great resource for those who need them, they can also be easier for threat actors to make their malicious apps available on. Simply downloading these apps can infect your smartphone with malware.
Can any antivirus scan and protect Android phones?
Many antivirus apps can be used to scan and get rid of malware on Android, but some are more trustworthy than others. Unfortunately, hackers can trick users into downloading malicious apps disguised as free antivirus apps.
Antivirus software comes in the form of security apps designed to detect, prevent and remove malware on your Android. When installed, it will scan through everything on your Android, including software, applications, files and even web pages. Reliable antivirus services will notify you about suspicious software, allowing you to block or destroy emerging cyber threats.
To infiltrate a device, hackers will use different types of malware, including computer viruses, spyware, adware, ransomware, Trojans, and spam — anything that could be used to steal valuable data. An antivirus will watch and throw out malicious software that sneaks onto a device. Think of it as your personal, battle-hardened bouncer keeping unwanted guests out of your exclusive nightclub.
To keep your Android safe from malware, download the best antivirus app for Android.
Best antivirus to prevent viruses and malware
1. Norton 360 🥇From $19.99/year
Best overall antivirus of 2023
“Norton” and “antivirus” are synonymous these days, as the well-established cybersecurity brand has successfully fought against malware, viruses and nasty software threats since 1990.
Norton 360 offers excellent antivirus protection and extra features that make for a valuable, all-in-one security product. Its Norton 360 Deluxe and Premium package may cost a pretty penny. Still, with security across multiple platforms, a full-blown VPN, Dark Web Monitoring, Parental Controls and more, it will have a household free of cyber threats.
Norton’s certainty of its antivirus software’s capabilities is clearly defined by the brand’s 100% Virus Protection Promise. If a device protected by Norton 360 can’t get rid of a virus, the user receives their money back. It’s a big claim, but unquestionably, no one should expect to get that refund.
If you have the money for it, you can also check out the premium Norton 360 Platinum package for even more online protection, including from identity theft. Without a doubt one of the best antivirus to get.
Read our full Norton 360 review
2. Bitdefender 🥈 From $19.99/year
Best security features and tools
Bitdefender takes the spot as best antivirus, and for good reason. It’s not enough that it boasts near-perfect lab test scores across the board, as it goes the extra mile by giving users access to a plethora of advanced security features.
Bitdefender goes above and beyond in the features department, all while keeping known malware, ransomware, and viruses at bay. It will defend your device against new attacks, provide security for online transactions, keep you safe with a reliable VPN, and protect your accounts with a password manager.
It’s a no-brainer when it comes to defending your devices against virtually any form of cyberattack, and its top-notch protection extends to its most affordable package, too. Protecting your PC and smartphone, from Windows and macOS to iOS and Android, is becoming even more necessary, and Bitdefender is the tricked-out shield you need.
Read our full Bitdefender review
3. Avast One 🙌 From $39.99/year
Best antivirus for beginners + free plan available!
With Avast One, you can protect your device from viruses, malware and ransomware for free. That’s right, and you don’t have to pay a dime for the extra security features the antivirus throws in, including its VPN, firewall and more.
Avast One will safeguard your device from malware, comes with ransomware protection, blocks harmful websites and downloads from the web, scans your emails for malicious attachments, stops hackers from infiltrating your device through Wi-Fi with a firewall – the list goes on. That’s a lot of tools for software that’s free, and the included VPN and the ability to speed up your PC are a welcome bonus.
It’s the ideal antivirus software for home use, as it takes the hassle out of staying wary of cyber threats lurking around, even if you’re not a tech whizz. What’s more, if you are looking for added precautions, its paid Individual and Family packages still boast great value. Hard to go wrong with this best antivirus.
Read our full Avast One review
4. AVG👍 From 4.99/month
Best antivirus for multiple devices + free plan available!
You can never go wrong with free antivirus protection, but some deliver even better detection and protection rates, along with extra security features, without costing a dime. This is where AVG antivirus shines.
AVG provides reliable protection and only a small impact on performance for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. It safeguards your devices against malware, viruses and zero-day exploits, along with blocking malicious links and attachments in emails. Throw in phishing protection when surfing the internet and extra security features such as its SafePrice browser extension and Network Inspector, and you’ve got yourself a do-it-all antivirus.
Sure, you can find all of these perks with Avast, but if you like a slick, darker user interface that’s easy to navigate, then AVG is for you.
Read our full AVG Antivirus review