Android Phone with malicious apps

Come across an unfamiliar app on your Android phone or tablet and don’t know how it got there? While the Google Play Store takes security seriously, malicious apps disguised as legitimate ones can still slip through the cracks.

If you find a random app on your Android, the first step is to assess the situation. Is your phone also exhibiting strange behavior? Does it run slower than usual, crash frequently, or drain the battery abnormally fast? These could be red flags, indicating that the mystery app might be malware in disguise.

There are plenty of ways a random app can install on your Android, whether from a malicious link on a website or an app changing its icon. In rare cases, even an unknown Bluetooth device could be causing problems.

This guide will help you get rid of random apps installed on Android and show you how the best antivirus software can keep you safe.

Random apps installing on Android: Quick fixes

To remove any unfamiliar apps that are secretly malware on your Android, follow the steps below. We recommend following each step, as different kinds of malware can be tricky to spot.

For the best way to scan your Android phone for malware, we’ve got you covered.

  1. Safely remove an app on Android

    Android Safe Mode Remove app

    Deleting a random app on Android is simple, but it’s best to do it the safe way to make sure it doesn’t cause any damage on your device. That’s when you need to enter safe mode.

    On your Android, press the necessary buttons to turn off your device. Tap and hold the Power off icon. Press OK to reboot to safe mode. This will restart your device.

    Once restarted, head to Settings and navigate to Apps. Select any suspicious apps you wish to remove. Tap Uninstall. Restart your device to go back to normal mode.

  2. Clear cache on Android

    Android Clear Cache to remove random apps

    Apps and browsers store your online activities, and malicious software can use this to cause more harm. Clearing your browser and app cache on your Android device will help minimize the effects of malware.

    To clear app cache, head to Settings on your Android. Select Storage and choose Apps. Select an app. Tap Clear cache.

    Many Android owners use Google Chrome as their default browser, so you may also want to clear browser cache.

    Open Chrome and tap the three vertical dots in the upper-right corner. Select Settings, then Privacy and security. Select Clear browsing data. To just clear cache, uncheck Browsing history and Cookies and site data, then tap Clear data.

  3. Change your passwords

    Norton 360 Password Manager

    If a random app appears on your Android and you’re seeing suspicious activity, chances are your Android has been infected with a virus or malware, and your online accounts and devices are at risk of being compromised.

    To help mitigate potential malware threats or hackers taking control of your accounts, change your passwords and use a strong password to stop suspicious activity. 

    Using password managers such as LastPass or 1Password for Android can help manage all your passwords in one place, create a complex, near-unbreakable master password and encrypt your information. 

    Changing passwords will stop hackers from trying to steal any sensitive information and your online accounts. 

  4. Use antivirus software on Android to detect and stop malware

    Norton 360 antivirus on Android phone

    Unfamiliar apps on your Android that you haven’t installed yourself indicate malware has been installed on your device, and it needs to be removed the right way. Using one of the best antivirus software like Norton 360 (from $19.99/year) will keep you safe from any malicious software, like ransomware, adware, spyware, phishing and more.

    That’s not all; antivirus software can provide extra features like VPNs, dark web monitoring and more. Norton 360 has all these features and extra security tools that can backup your data, prevent online identity theft and stop malware. 

    What’s more, Norton 360 comes with monitoring features to identify all suspicious activity on your device. It will help detect and notify you about any unusual activity, including malicious apps, and stop it using it’s protection tools. 

    Check out our Norton 360 review and Norton 360 Platinum review to see which antivirus package suits you best.

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 an excellent resource for those who need them, they can also be easier for threat actors to make their malicious apps available. Simply downloading these apps can infect your smartphone with malware.

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Can any antivirus software stop viruses and malware?

The best antivirus software 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.

However, many high-standard AV protections offer near-perfect scores when detecting and protecting against malware, meaning even complex malicious software can’t go unnoticed. If a random app that’s hiding malware has infected your Android phone, the right antivirus software will help you stay protected.

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.

Services, including Norton 360 (from $19.99/year) and Bitdefender (from $19.99/year), include device monitoring features to help uncover suspicious activity early and offer the tools to fight off cyberattacks. Whether its a phishing attack, ransomware, spyware or infostealer malware, these security products have the tools to protect you.

These services have protection features that block malicious activity blocking any software updates on your device. To make sure your device is ready to identify and block malware damaging your system, set yourself up with an antivirus.

Best antivirus to prevent viruses and malware

1. Norton 360 🥇From $19.99/year
Best overall antivirus of 2023

Norton 360 on Laptop scaled

“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

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2. Bitdefender 🥈 From $19.99/year
Best security features and tools

Bitdefender Lead Image scaled

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

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3. Avast One 🙌 From $39.99/year
Best antivirus for beginners + free plan available!

Avast One logo on laptop

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

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4. AVG👍 From 4.99/month
Best antivirus for multiple devices + free plan available!

AVG Antivirus logo scaled

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

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Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.

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