It shouldn’t be surprising that Android devices are the targets of threats like adware and other Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs). After all, there are millions of apps on the Google Play Store, servicing billions of monthly active users globally. And, as we have noted with Mac virus trends, platforms with rising popularity tend to attract threats.
What is adware?
Adware is a type of bothersome malware that sits quietly on your device, generating revenue for its authors through unwanted marketing campaigns. Usually, adware hits your screen with advertisements, but some adware can be sneakier.
What can adware do to Android phones?
While adware isn’t as threatening as more dangerous malware like spyware, stalkerware, or ransomware, it can be unpleasant. Most commonly, adware throws up advertisements on your screen in the shape of irritating popups. It may also hijack your browser, redirect you to different web pages, install toolbars, extensions, or plugins, and track your activity for marketers. Here are some other potential signs of an adware infection on your Android phone:
- Your phone slows down or crashes inexplicably
- Your browser slows down or crashes inexplicably
- Downloading, uploading, and browsing takes longer than usual
- You need to recharge your device more often
- Apps take longer to load or run sluggishly
- Your data usage is higher than usual
- New software is on your phone that you didn’t download or install
Of course, many of these symptoms are also signs of an aging Android device, or could be a sign of a different type of malware infection than adware. A few of these symptoms, combined with core signs of adware like popups or browser redirection, are a red flag. Check out the next section to see how to get rid of adware on Android devices.
How to remove adware and malware on an Android phone
Removing any malware from your phone requires a holistic approach. For example, even if you remove an infection with mobile device security tools, you may attract new threats if some problematic apps remain. Here are some steps that can help you remove adware from Android devices, and protect your device from future infections:
1. Use adware removal tools
The most obvious first step is to use a cybersecurity tool, such as Malwarebytes for Android, that protects against adware on Android devices. When selecting an adware removal app, ensure that it has the following traits:
- It scans and removes adware quickly.
- It’s light, doesn’t hog your system resources, and runs seamlessly in the background.
- It alerts you about suspicious apps.
- It keeps an eye on URLs and warns you against unsafe websites.
- It doesn’t create false positives to appear more valuable.
Of course, adware is just one type of malware that can infect an Android device. An exhaustive cybersecurity app will find all kinds of malware, including viruses, spyware, stalkerware, Trojans, ransomware, rootkits, and adware. So dig into the details of the app you are considering to make sure you're protected against all of these.
It’s also a good idea to check your cybersecurity app’s reputation before you download it. For example, some cybersecurity tools were criticized for harvesting user data to supply it to marketers. There’s little point in downloading software to remove adware if it also takes a page out of the adware playbook.
2. Remove dubious apps
You can check out what suspicious apps you already have lurking on your phone by doing the following:
- Hold down the power button on the side of your phone.
- Tap and hold the Power Off icon on your screen.
- Tap Safe mode to restart your device in Safe mode.
- Tap Settings.
- Tap Apps.
- Select Suspicious apps.
- Hit Uninstall.
- Restart your phone.
3. Clean your browser
Your browser may carry data or plugins that leave your Android device susceptible to adware. Remove all unnecessary extensions, clear your browsing history, and delete stored data. You can also uninstall your browser entirely and reinstall it to start afresh.
Where do Android adware and malware come from?
Hundreds of thousands of instances of new malware are detected every day, according to some experts. The authors of malicious software include online trolls, hackers, blackmailers, thieves, and other cybercriminals. Threat actors often hide adware and other malware in shady links, untrustworthy websites, and even on apps in the official Google Play Store.
Tips to safeguard Android devices from adware
- Make sure you have security software installed.
- Keep your operating system, security tools, and apps updated.
- Only download apps from trustworthy sources.
- Even when downloading apps from Google Play Store, check reviews.
- Avoid apps that are new or ask for unnecessary permissions.
- Don’t visit untrustworthy websites.
- Avoid opening suspicious links, emails, and text messages.