Has your phone been slow to respond lately? Or maybe your battery is draining much faster than normal? It could be mobile malware. Malicious software can be harder to spot on a phone than a computer, but it can do just as much damage. As people rely on their phones to handle more and more of life’s daily activities for home, work, and school, malware is becoming an increasing problem infecting phones and causing all kinds of havoc.

What is mobile malware?

Besides creating annoying popups that make it hard to use your phone, mobile malware can do much worse, like access private information and use it against you. Common targets include:

  • banking credentials
  • device and app log in and password information
  • personal phone numbers and emails
  • contact lists

Once hackers have accessed this kind of information using malware, they can use it for everything from identity theft to draining your bank accounts to sending out malware threats to your entire contact list and infecting them too.

Signs of malware on your phone

If you notice these things happening, your phone might be affected:

  • Ads start popping up constantly.
  • You install a new app, then the icon disappears.
  • The battery is draining much faster than usual.
  • You see apps you don’t recognize on your phone.
  • Your phone is sluggish and slow to respond.
  • Your phone gets hot and it seems to be running all the time

What to do if you suspect malware on your phone

There are steps you can take to protect yourself from mobile malware.

Keep phone software and apps updated: Security experts consistently say that keeping the phone’s operating system and apps updated is one of the best things you can do to protect the device and your accounts. New updates, or patches, often contain code that fixes any vulnerabilities and keeps malware at bay.

Be careful about permissions: If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to review the permissions you’ve granted to your apps. And be aware of what you agree to when you download new apps. For example, does a game ask you for permission to ready your SMS (text) messages? That’s unnecessary and could be a red flag that something is wrong. So before you click “yes” to everything, read through every step of what you agreeing to before clicking any boxes.

Remove suspicious apps: If there are apps on your phone you don’t remember downloading, or seems to be functioning oddly, try to remove them. Often that will take care of it. If they won’t delete because they require administrator privileges, try looking it up online to see what has worked for other people.

Install antivirus protection: Mobile antivirus apps can warn you about malware on your phone and offer customer service when you need to deal with something nasty. It can also scan your phone and alert you if something is already on it. Be aware that many common PC security services such as Norton, McAfee, Kaspersky, Avast and others also offer mobile antivirus service. You might already subscribe to this and not realize it. Look it up on your current service to check before investing in something new. Once you find one you want to use, be aware that these services do have heightened access to your phone in order to spot malicious behavior and warn you, so be sure to choose one you trust.