How to Get Rid of Viruses on iOS & Android

Posted on Dec 17, 2018 by Kristin Hassel

When you think of viruses, it’s easy to pigeonhole them to desktop computers. After all, they were the bane of the new millennium. Does anyone remember MyDoom, the mass mailer virus responsible for distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks throughout 2004? 

The point is, for a long time your computer was the only device you needed to worry about when it came to viruses and other malware, but not anymore.

But smartphones have made way for clever, more intrusive malware. Spyware, trojans, rootkits, and more are just as dangerous for mobile devices as they are for PCs. We constantly download apps, pictures, and files to our phones. We check our emails and access sensitive accounts like banking or medical records on public networks, without a second thought. 

So, how do you protect yourself against malware and what do you do if it’s already on your mobile device? Keep reading to discover ways to prevent malware from crippling your system and how to get rid of viruses on your iPhone and Android devices.

Yes, Your iOS & Android Devices Can Get Viruses

In February 2022, researchers at Proofpoint noticed a 500% spike in malware delivery attempts to mobile devices in Europe alone. But honestly, the problem is global. Plenty of mobile malware options are available to cybercriminals, including spyware, trojans, rootkits, ransomware, and logic bombs. 

Your computer isn’t the only device you risk getting a virus on, mobile malware is on the rise.

Each type of malware is disruptive in its own way, and many mobile varieties put your device in serious jeopardy. I find the logic bomb the most alarming, as it’s programmed into software or systems by someone during development. 

Logic bombs have a practical, ethical use as a fail-safe to secure data if an unauthorized individual accesses a network, system, or device. When jilted developers use it as malware, the intent is to cripple a device or system for some gain — whether personal or financial. 

Which OS is More Susceptible to Viruses?

Android users may have more freedom to sideload apps and download third-party app stores, but it generally makes them more susceptible to malware. Sure, the ban on side loading when using iOS is annoying, as is the fact you can only download apps from the Apple App Store. 

But these precautions are in place (at least in part) to protect you from malware and viruses. iOS’s App Store and Google Play Store say they perform quality control on all apps, but many backdoor apps still make it through, mostly because a lot of cybercriminals design them to work as intended. Under the guise of a weather app or wi-fi finder app that does exactly what it says, malicious parties can also add a backdoor for themselves, a backdoor that doesn’t have to be used until way after you install the software.

Before you get too excited, your iOS device isn’t immune to malware. Just because it’s less likely to get a virus, it doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk. You still have email and SMS malware to contend with, in addition to the buggy or dodgy apps sneaking by quality control during the vetting process. 

Many iOS users perform jailbreaks on their phones, allowing them to download and use software otherwise unavailable to the system. What you may not realize is this also makes your iOS device more vulnerable to malware.

How Can I Tell if My Device Has a Virus?

Devices with virus or malware infections are sometimes easy to spot. One of the main indicators is unexplained data usage when you haven’t increased your screen time, or random pop-ups when you aren’t using a browser. Let’s take a look at more alarm bells signaling an infected device:

  • Mysterious apps: Unfamiliar apps you know you didn’t install can be a sign of trackers or other spyware.
  • Bill increases: Some malware sends messages to premium services, which can be charged to your account (especially if you have a limited data plan).
  • Worse than usual performance: In addition to a device being outdated or cluttered, uninvited malware can be a reason for depleted resources.
  • Battery issues: In relation to the above point, an overly hot battery or one draining quickly could be a sign your device is infected with malware.
  • Crashing apps: Apps do crash once in a while, but an app constantly crashing is buggy. 

Preventative Maintenance — How To Avoid Viruses

Instead of worrying about how to get rid of viruses on your iPhone and other mobile devices after the fact, get proactive. Exercise caution and perform some, or all, of the preventative maintenance options below.

Only Download Apps from Trusted Services

You’ve likely heard most malware comes from app stores, whether official or third-party. While this is true, the risk of malware is higher with unvetted app sources. You can find third-party app stores with vetting processes, but whenever possible only download apps from official app stores

It doesn’t mean you’ll never get malware from these sources, but downloading from a vetted source decreases your risk. You can also keep these general rules in mind when it comes to downloading from trustworthy sources.

  • Never download apps from sites without SSL (Hint: The URL will contain https://).
  • Never click a link to a download or URL from an email if the source isn’t verified/known to you.
  • Never click on third-party apps on other websites — always download from the source/developer website and only if it uses SSL.

Pay Attention to User Reviews & Download Numbers

Apps with higher download numbers have been tested by more ordinary users like you and me. While magazine and site reviews are excellent resources, it’s more comforting knowing other everyday users like and trust an app

Just keep in mind not every five-star review denotes value, and not every two-star review means an app is buggy. It may be hard to believe, but some people get paid to write rave reviews on new apps. Conversely, review ‘trolls’ exist solely to discredit an app or service — and are also paid to do it.

While looking through reviews, don’t worry about things like perfect grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Instead, look for value. A valuable review will always have both positive and negative aspects of an app or service.


A VPN hides your online activity from prying eyes, providing a secure connection — even over public Wi-Fi networks like hotspots. VPNs also use ultra-secure encryption methods to mask your traffic, so if a cybercriminal does intercept your data, it’s unreadable. When you connect to a VPN server, your true IP address is hidden, making your activity harder to track. 

A premium VPN like PIA uses some of the best AES encryption methods. Whether you stick with default 128-bit or go for military-grade 256-bit AES encryption, your encrypted data is unreadable. We also use RAM-only servers to ensure your session data is never stored.  

The PIA MACE blocker prevents access to sites known for hosting malware, so you can browse confidently. The list of known malicious sites is updated as new threats appear to provide the most up-to-date security protection available. Preventing viruses on iOS and Android is easier than ever with PIA — for just a small fee, you can include antivirus protection in your plan. 

How to Install PIA on iOS & Android Devices

    Step 1: Download the PIA app for your device.
    Step 2: Install the VPN and connect to a server.
    Step 3: Enjoy secure access to the internet anywhere.

Check Permissions Requests & Data Practices 

Apple App Store and Google Play Store have made it much easier to review important privacy requirements like data practices and permissions requests. Follow the instructions below to find and check permissions requests and data practices for iOS and Android.

How to Check Data Practices & Permissions on Android

It’s easy to find data safety and app permissions for Google Play Store apps.

  • Open Google Play Store on your Android device and click on the app you want to install.

  • Scroll down to Data Safety to see what type of data the app shares and collects.

  • Once you’ve read through, click on the blue See details link beneath data collection practices.

  • In the Details window, scroll down to App permissions and click on the blue See more link to review the permissions the app requests

  • How to Check Data Practices on iOS

    iOS provides in-depth information about the types of data apps collect and use.

  • Open the Apple App Store on your iOS device and click on the app you want to install.

  • Scroll down to App Privacy to see what data the app collects and uses.

  • Once you’ve read through, click the blue See Details link directly to the right of App Privacy for more information.

  • Permissions are currently only accessible after installing the app. The following directions show you how to check and alter app permissions on iOS: 

  • Settings > Privacy > Select the app you want to check permissions for > Turn permission off by toggling the button next to it.

  • Don’t Open Suspicious Emails or Texts

    If you haven’t signed up for a promotional email, text, newsletter, or notification, or entered an online contest for a store or app, don’t open it. If you must open it out of curiosity (been there) don’t click on any of the links it contains, as you’ll only receive more spam and potentially something worse — like malware or a virus. 

    Luckily, most of these emails and texts make it easy to spot a potential threat. Look for:

    • Emails from major retailers like Amazon, Temu, or Home Depot from unusual addresses, like Gmail accounts (usually, they’re do-not-reply).
    • Email or text alerts from unverified senders (they could be spam).
    • Notifications you won $1 million but need to pay $500 to get it, or are asked for any amount of money to get a prize.
    • Urgent language in all caps like “ACT IMMEDIATELY or IMPORTANT READ NOW”
    • Massive spelling errors and unusual greetings.
    • Texts or emails from major government offices like the IRS, SSA, or FBI requesting information (these offices won’t text or email you asking for PII).
    • A sudden text from your bank or credit card claiming fraudulent activity (this is a situation where it’s better to just call your financial institution if you’re unsure).
    • Any text or email requiring you to call immediately or face account suspension, then asking you to pay through an untraceable form of payment like a gift card or by mailing cash.

    Some of these tell-tale signs are more like gigantic bonfires, but you’d be surprised just how many people are affected by spam links and how big the problem is. According to statistics from 99FIRMS, Gmail alone blocks well over 100 million phishing emails a day. Worse yet, 94% of all malware is delivered via email. 

    Avoiding emails from unknown senders is a major step in preventing malware from getting on your iOS or Android device, but what if you already clicked on a suspicious link? No worries, we know what to do if you clicked a malware link. Check out a few of these easy fixes:

      🔒 Delete the email and clear your email trash immediately.
      🔒 Clear temporary device files and browsing history.
      🔒 Run a system health check and follow recommendations.
    • 🔒 Power your phone down and turn it back on (not a restart)

    Update your OS & Apps Regularly

    Most major mobile devices and apps provide regular updates to fix security issues and glitches in the software. Keeping your system and apps current is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of getting viruses and spyware. 

    Use Caution Accessing Sensitive Accounts On Public Wi-Fi

    It’s always better to access accounts containing sensitive personal information over a private network connection. This includes banking, shopping, medical, and insurance services among others. Access to your home network is limited to those you allow to use it, especially if you make it private by requiring a password or code for access — you control the traffic flow.

    Public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured and anyone with a Wi-Fi-enabled device can connect to them, so you have no control over who could be watching. If you absolutely must access these accounts over public Wi-Fi, or while using your mobile network, use PIA to protect yourself.

    What To Do If Your Device Is Already Infected

    First, don’t panic. You don’t need to replace your phone right away — in many cases it’s still salvageable. Simple security checks, maintenance, and other quick fixes can remedy most malware infections — but where to start? We’ve got you covered with helpful tips showing you how to get rid of viruses on your iPhone and other mobile devices.

    Delete Suspicious Apps

    If you don’t remember installing an app, you probably didn’t. When you find suspicious apps you know didn’t come pre-installed on your iOS or Android device, or you didn’t download, it’s better to just uninstall them. Don’t worry if you accidentally delete an app you need, a factory reset will bring it back — it’s better to be safe than sorry.

    Clear App Caches & Browsing History

    You don’t need to clear the app cache for every app on your device, just the apps you use regularly. Aside from clearing up space on your device, which is never a bad thing, clearing your app caches and browsing history can fix many malware-related issues

    It can rectify loading issues on websites, helps your device run at optimal levels, and potentially fix problems with apps freezing. Luckily, it only takes a few simple steps on both iOS and Android

    iOS Instructions

    Apps: Settings > Apps > Click on an app > Storage > Clear Cache > Repeat for each appSafari: Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website Data > Confirm

    Android Instructions

    Apps: Settings > Apps > Click on an app > Storage > Clear Cache > Repeat for each appChrome: Open Chrome > Click the Menu button (three vertical dots) > History > Clear browsing data > Advanced > Choose All time from the Time range dropdown menu > Select what you’d like to delete > Clear data > Clear

    Perform a Complete Power Down

    A restart isn’t the same as a complete power down, and sometimes simply powering your device on and off is enough to resolve the issue. To power off your Android device completely (for most OS versions), hold the power button until a Power off icon appears on the screen, then press it. On newer Android devices like the Galaxy S22, powering off the device is a bit different.

    How to Power Off Newer Android Devices

    Several newer Android devices like the Galaxy S22 don’t use a physical button to shut down.

  • Use your finger to pull down on the top of your device screen until you see a menu 

  • Then pull down from the top one more time

  • You’ll see a Power icon in the upper right corner next to the Settings icon

  • Click on the Power icon

  • When prompted, click on the Power off icon to shut your device down

  • For iOS devices, hold the power button until you see a Power button toggle switch saying Slide to power off. Slide it to the right, and wait for the device to shut down.  

    Both iOS and Android give you the option to restart your device in Safe Mode as well. However,  the process varies by the OS version you’re using, so it’s best to check with the manufacturer to get the specific method for your device and OS. 

    Using safe mode is an excellent option for more in-depth virus and malware removal, without allowing the harmful software to damage your device further. This is because safe mode only uses the resources necessary for the device to function and nothing else.

    Restore Your Device from a Safe Backup

    Do you remember the last time your iOS or Android device worked properly? If so, and if you created backups, you can reset your device to a safe restore point. Restoring from a backup is usually effective for smaller glitches, trackers, and spyware. However, a total factory reset is better for removing a full-blown virus.

    Restore Your Device to Factory Settings

    A factory reset wipes your phone completely, leaving only preinstalled device software. You will need to re-add everything, including your account information, contacts, and apps. 

    Before you perform a factory reset, back up your contacts and account passwords to a secure storage solution (e.g. Google Drive or iCloud) to make it easy to transfer them to your device again. Don’t back up apps, as you can always download them again. Besides, you could end up reinstalling the problem app in the process, so bulk downloading isn’t the best idea.

    How to Perform A Reset on iOS Devices

    A complete reset restores your iPhone to factory settings.

  • Open Settings and click on General

  • Scroll to the bottom of the window and click on Transfer or Reset iPhone (or iPad)

  • Click on the blue Reset link at the bottom of the window and follow the prompts

  • How to Perform A Reset on Android Devices

    After you reset your Android phone, you’ll have a clean slate.

  • Open Settings and click on Accounts and backup

  • Under Looking for something else click on the blue Reset link

  • Click Factory data reset and follow the prompts

  • Stop Putting Your Phone at Risk

    We subject our mobile phones to a lot of abuse, including crowded pockets and purses, clumsy handling, spilled drinks, and greasy fingers. Still, it isn’t the worst way we put our device security and functionality at risk. 

    Clicking suspicious links and downloading apps from third-party app stores is more of a risk to phones than a temporary dunk in a water puddle. At least the puddle won’t hijack your device and hold it for ransom — potentially stealing your data for later use in the process.

    Taking time to perform preventative maintenance like installing PIA VPN, using antivirus software, and updating iOS and Android devices regularly can go a long way in protecting your device from malware. We offer antivirus protection as an add-on to protect your iOS and Android from viruses, and PIA MACE to safeguard against malicious sites while browsing.


    Can smartphones get viruses from websites?

    Yes. Any device you connect to the internet and use to access a website can get malware like viruses or spyware. Downloading questionable apps from a site or clicking on a suspicious link within an email or site while using your mobile phone increases the likelihood of an infection.

    To lessen your risk, download PIA VPN for iOS or Android. Our all-in-one blocker MACE also prevents you from even accessing websites known to harbor malicious software and stops trackers and other spyware before it infects your device.

    Can iPhones get viruses from spam messages?

    Yes. While it’s less likely for iOS devices than Android, you can still get viruses if you click on links in spam messages or emails. Your iOS devices aren’t the only ones at risk — any mobile OS you open suspicious messages on can get a virus if you aren’t careful.

    Use PIA VPN for iOS to help reduce your chances of getting a virus while accessing your email account or using unfamiliar websites on Safari. Protect yourself from data snatchers invading your iPhone by hiding your true IP address and using military-grade AES encryption to mask your traffic.  

    How can I tell if my phone has a virus?

    Apps loading slowly or constantly freezing and an overheating or easily drained battery, are two of the most noticeable indications your phone has a virus. For more ways to tell when your phone has a virus, check out How Can I Tell if My Device Has a Virus.

    How do I get rid of viruses on my iPhone?

    Major malware infections like viruses usually require a factory reset to ensure all of the harmful software is removed from your iPhone. A reset restores your device with only the software required for operation and factory pre-installed apps, essentially making it a blank slate. If you’re dealing with less invasive malware check out other effective ways to rid yourself of viruses on iOS and Android above.