How to scan an Android phone for malware

Some people will tell you that an Android phone is immune to computer viruses. But over the summer, dozens of adware and malware apps were found in the Google Play Store (, 7/26/2022). Google Play Protect can tell you if your app is different from the version they have in the Store. But what if the original code approved by Google was bad?

Clearly, there is a role to play for anti-malware apps that can scan an Android phone for viruses and other malware. Many of the products available for Android devices are from the same companies that have been protecting PCs for years. But once any current infestation is eliminated, there are still future threats to consider. Let’s bring together the components of a successful Android security strategy.

Read more: Top 15 Antivirus Apps and Best Antimalware Apps for Android


To scan an Android phone for viruses and malware, download a reputable anti-malware app (see our link above for a list) from the Google Play Store and have it scan your phone for suspicious code. After the scan, go through your list of apps and remove any apps you don’t remember installing.


Can Android phones get viruses or malware?

A virus is a particular type of malware that behaves in a specific way. It replicates itself within the operating system or application code, in the same way that a biological virus inserts its genetic code into human cells. While Android phones don’t typically get this particular type of security threat, there are other forms of malware (the largest category containing viruses and other malicious code) that can accomplish the same goals as virus writers: gain access to your information, damage your phone, or hold it for ransom.

Android phones typically acquire malware by tricking the phone owner into downloading it. It could come in a downloaded app, an attachment to an email or SMS text message, or content downloaded from a website. It could even come from another phone if you connect the two together.
If your phone has slowed down, is burning through the battery very quickly, or reboots over and over again, it could be due to malware. If the same app starts to crash repeatedly, if you see pop-up ads in apps that normally don’t have ads, if your phone suddenly starts overheating, or if you see an app on your phone that you don’t remember installing, chances are you have a guest you don’t know. desired on your phone. So what should I do?

How to check for viruses or malware on Android

The first thing you should do is scan your Android phone for malware. There are a large number of anti-malware applications for the Android operating system. Most work on the same model of offering a free version with basic functionality and charging for the deluxe version. Most Android owners will be fine with the free version (many people don’t want a VPN, for example). These applications are very easy to operate, and most feature a great Scan button when opening the application. Of the apps listed in our article linked above, Bitdefender Free is a great option. It is lightweight and offers decent functionality in its free incarnation. When you download Bitdefender Free and open it, this is what you will see.

Android antimalware scan button

Kevin Convery / Android Authority

tap on the scan device and Bitdefender will start scanning your phone for malware.

Android malware scan

Kevin Convery / Android Authority

When it finishes scanning, it will display the results. We have a clean bill of health on this scan. If Bitdefender finds malware, it will automatically remove it. If this is not possible, it will give you the option to clean the offending file, delete it, or move it to quarantine. Most antimalware applications work in a similar way.

Android anti-malware scan results

Kevin Convery / Android Authority

Delete any non-play store app

Now that we have determined that your phone is not infected at this point, we need to cover the possibility that there is a rogue app on your phone that just hasn’t moved yet. If there is an app on your phone that you did not download from the Google Play Store, it is unfortunately suspect as a default because apps are usually not available on the Google Play Store for some reason.

Sometimes it’s because an app performs a function that violates a company’s terms of service. And sometimes it is because the creators or distributors of the app want to install spyware or other malware in their app. They know that Google will not allow it. Although there are sometimes infected apps in the store temporarily, Google regularly scans its stock to remove malware. If you want to be sure of the security of your device, please remove all apps from your phone or tablet that you have not downloaded from the Google Play Store.

What about the future?

Keeping your Android device free from malware in the future is a matter of vigilance. Here are some steps you can take to make sure no malicious code finds a beachhead on your phone:

  • Continue to take all the normal security steps that you’re probably already in the habit of, including never clicking on links in emails or texts unless you’re 100% sure they’re secure, and locking your phone with a PIN when you don’t. go to use for a moment.
  • You can use an antivirus application on your device. For real-time protection, consider a monthly subscription. That said, antivirus software on a PC is pretty much a necessity. With Android, if you follow basic security practices like not opening suspicious messages and emails, avoiding third-party apps outside of the Play Store, and other similar precautions, antivirus software may not be necessary for all users.
  • Google Play Protect is a feature of the Google Play Store that can scan the Play Store apps you have on your phone or tablet and compare them to the versions in the store. Any app that has been tampered with on your device will be flagged. If you use only apps from Play Store and scan with Play Protect regularly, it will be difficult for someone to corrupt your device. Search for Play Protect in the Play Store to access the tool.
  • Each Android system update has included security fixes and fixes for known vulnerabilities in the previous version. The longer a version of Android is available to the public, the greater the chance that someone can exploit these vulnerabilities, as more and more hackers find out about them. Between version updates, there are also smaller Android security updates. You should install them as soon as they are offered.
  • Disable password saving. It makes a hacker’s job much easier when their passwords are stored on the very device they’re trying to break into.

Read more: How to know if someone is spying or tracking my Android phone

frequent questions

All viruses are malware, but not all malware is a virus. A virus is a type of malware that spreads by copying itself to your phone’s operating system or application code. Malware can be a virus, ransomware, adware, or worm. Viruses are a subset of all malware.

Androids yes. There are more Android phones in the world than iPhones, making them a more attractive target for malware writers. There are also more chances to infect an Android because you can download Android apps from places other than Google Play Store. This gives bad actors a way to bypass Google Play Protect and get into your device. The only way to download an app to an iPhone other than from the Apple Store, with its vaunted security procedures, is to jailbreak the phone.

No. It is very difficult to corrupt an Android phone to the point of having to throw it away. If your phone is extremely infected, you can always revert it to its factory state and start from scratch.

Clicking on links in text messages can lead you to malicious websites. And hackers can even use Bluetooth to send virus-infected files that an unsuspecting person could open.

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