Picture of a man's hand holding a phone with "Malware" written across the screen, Malware on a Smartphone or Tablet

Unfortunately, few malicious software threats (malware) announce themselves so obviously as portrayed in the above picture. With the exception of ransomware, malware largely depends on keeping itself hidden from the user until it’s too late. That’s why handheld device users must be diligent, always paying close attention to their gadgets. If your device exhibits any of the irregularities mentioned in this blog, don’t just ignore them. You may have a malware infection!

Mobile Malware: On-the-Go Security Threats

Using the internet on the go from a handheld device is an immense convenience, but it’s not without risks. Although malicious software (which includes viruses) remains a bigger threat to desktop PCs and laptops, malware on a smartphone or tablet is nonetheless a very real danger. It’s important not to get fooled into a false sense of security—especially for those using Google’s Android operating system. Although this news may give Apple devotees reason to crow, it’s a simple truth: Due to its being a closed-source, wholly proprietary system, Apple’s iOS is more resistant to malware compared to Android (which is open-source, with only select components being proprietary to Google). Still, Apple does have vulnerabilities, and whether your device uses Android or iOS, here are five signs it may be infected.

Increased Data Usage May Indicate Malware on a Smartphone or Tablet

Hackers write malware to accomplish many different tasks, and not all of them involve stealing your identity or private information (though many do). One thing most forms of malware have in common, however, is that they get to work right away and remain busy once installed. These programs often run multiple background tasks, unnoticed, transmitting information to and receiving it from online servers. All that communication can quickly burn through data, a fact that will be reflected in your data usage. It’s important to keep track of your average monthly data and usage habits. If you notice a sudden, dramatic spike, it may be due to malicious software. You can easily check usage via your monthly bill, through your carrier’s website or even through your device’s operating system.

Excessive Crashing Can Indicate Malware, Too

Smartphone and tablet apps sometimes crash; this is a normal part of owning a handheld device. Some crashes may stem from buggy software or even from a hiccup in the operating system, and some apps crash more than others. However, if you start experiencing frequent crashing from multiple apps for no apparent reason, you likely have malware. If so, you’ll probably notice your device performs sluggishly, too—perhaps excessively so.

Malware Can Load Its Own Apps Onto Your Device

If you notice an app on your device you didn’t install and didn’t come preinstalled, get rid of it immediately. Android malware commonly installs additional, nefarious apps. If you click on the icons for such apps, you’ll open a whole new level of malware infection on your device.

A Malware Pop-Ups Fest

Nobody likes pop-up ads. They’re intrusive and annoying. Most handheld browsers come with various degrees of built-in pop-up-blocking features. If you suddenly begin seeing frequent pop-ups, but had never before experienced them, you’ve probably got a malware infection. If you start seeing pop-ups with your browser closed, you’ve definitely got a problem. Whatever you do, don’t click on any of these malware invaders once they start “popping up.” Doing so will only worsen the infection.

Malware on a Smartphone or Tablet: Faster Battery Drain

Increased data usage; secret internet communications; hidden data crunching and app downloads; excessive crashing; pop-ups; slowed-down operation—all this activity sends your device’s battery into overdrive. Certainly, lithium-ion batteries naturally lose charge over time; however, if you notice battery performance dropping 25-50 percent or more from one day, week or month to the next, the natural, gradual decline of lithium-ion technology probably isn’t the cause.

Protect Yourself from Malware on a smartphone or Tablet

If you think you might have malware installed on a device, you need to install a robust Android security app or make sure the one you have is up-to-date; then start running scans. There are many good options available, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog. We invite you back next month, though, when we’ll discuss features of five great Android security apps.

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