It always makes it difficult when even experts can’t agree on a topic. That is the case when it comes to whether or not you need antivirus protection on mobile operating systems such as Android.
The reason there are so many differing opinions could be in the interpretation of the question. The way we understand Android, the answer is both yes and no.
For instance, the Android operating system—when used without root access—doesn’t allow apps to move from their individual sandbox environments. Thus, even if you did install malware by accident, it isn’t going to be able to move around the operating system and cause more damage, like it would if you were granting it full admin rights that some other operating systems used to have.
These days even Windows has security in place that stops malware from moving around the operating system unless the user permits it. It’s called User Account Control. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t benefit from running an antivirus or antimalware scan—you can still be subjected to the malware’s actions. For example, if you were to download adware on Windows, even with the latest security measures, you’ll still see the adware when you open a web browser. Such is the case with Android today: you can still see adware on your mobile device’s display, as well as other malware that you don’t have on your device.
Thus, most users who aren’t able to spot malware the instant it is on their device’s display, may wish to run antimalware scans periodically to ensure that there is no malware on the device causing a bad user experience.
What is Adware?
Adware is advertising-supported software. Adware is a type of malware. What distinguishes adware from other advertising-supported software is it is injected into your web browser to take revenue away from the websites you visit, without offering you something in return. The sole purpose of adware is to display advertisements on your computer any way it can.
Software-supported advertising. This is a broad term that can mean two different things. When we consider adware as software-supported advertising, we do that because you will find the adware bundled in with other programs, as though they are single files. While developers may claim the adware they snuck in is what they deserve in return for offering you free files, that is not true. Software bundled in without users’ consent is always spyware and malicious by nature. The only reason those developers have provided the file is so they install some malicious software on your computer without your knowledge or consent. This differs greatly from how other people using the term “software-supported advertising,” namely when you have ads being shown from a program as a means of supporting a free version of the tool that you may be using.
Malware. Adware is always malware. Any programs that display banner ads—or other styles of ads—the same way websites do are not displaying what we should consider adware. Everyone who is offering you something has the right to show some ads around that program or application as a means of making some revenue. That is considered normal behavior from a publisher online or developer of computer software—even Windows 10 OS comes with some ads. Adware is malicious software that does nothing for your computer apart from displaying as many intrusive ads as possible on your computer’s display, which usually happens when you visit a website. Someone who does not know any better may just grow to hate advertisements because they think the ads they are seeing are coming from the websites rather than a malicious adware program that is injected them from the browser.
How to Remove Adware?
If you use your computer lots, you may want to look into keeping an antimalware program running in the background—they prevent malware from being downloaded by detecting it hidden in files, and they scan your system periodically to keep it malware-free. Most reliable antimalware programs are paid programs that only offer free trials, so you need to pay for that level of protection. Otherwise, there is a tweak you can make to the default antivirus software that comes with the Windows operating system, which we will show you how to make in the tutorial below.
Windows Defender does not by default remove all malware such as adware; instead, you need to enable PUP protection first. And even then, it may not be reliable enough to do the job.
Tips to Avoid Malware in the Future
If you have malware on your computer, you can always install an antimalware program and run a scan to try to remove it. But some experts suggest that even if you do that, it is not a given that all malware can be removed—once it gets access to your system, some of its associated files may prove close to impossible to extract.
So naturally, that means you should try preventing the malware from getting on your computer in the first place.
Here are some of the most common ways you can avoid getting malware on your PCs:
- Be cautious when downloading. You can anticipate finding malware on some websites more than others. If you are using a reliable web browser, it should already provide timely protection by alerting you to sites littered with threats upon visiting them—do not ignore those warnings. What’s more, try not to visit any websites that you think maybe untrustworthy: Torrenting sites may offer handy legal files, and the founders are not necessarily evil, but you need to remember that random people around the world are uploading each of those files, including the directories of such sites riddled with illegal movie files. A notorious niche for malware is sites that host or share torrents for this reason—not everyone is interested in helping you download free files without getting something in return. Often that return comes in the form of malware tucked away within the files you download, tricking you into thinking that they are only movies.
- Install (full paid versions of) third-party antimalware programs if you can. If your operating system is not providing adequate protection from malware threats, you ought to look into third-party programs. They will not always protect you in real-time for free, but the paid versions often do. That means if the program detects the file you are about to download is malware, it lets you know about it with a warning. At this stage, Microsoft Windows does not automatically block potentially unwanted programs, so third-party protection for malware may still be sensible to use.
- Keep all data and personal information safe. The malware only becomes a problem when it nestles its way into your operating system, and in the precise location that its developer had set out for it. Simply being on your computer does not necessarily mean you encounter computer woes; it is what it does from that position that dictates your computer’s outcome. Moreover, not all malware is trying to cause computer problems. Sometimes it wants to snoop on your data instead. To keep prying malware at bay, look into ways of keeping your data safe, such as using file encryption. Windows 10 comes with EFS for encrypting individual files and also BitLocker encryption for the full disk.
- Keep your software up to date. It does not matter what software you have; if it is outdated, then it may also be insecure. Simply being outdated software does not necessarily open up new avenues for vulnerabilities. Rather, new updates potentially close old vulnerabilities. It can be said with certainty that your software is safe to continue using if you know there are no vulnerabilities. However, if antivirus or manufacturers find vulnerabilities, updates are critical. If you do not want to follow the news every day, it is best to keep updating and know that you are safe. That means ensuring your operating systems are updated with their regular over-the-air software update rollouts. For Windows users, that means keeping the Windows Update automatic updates enabled, so the automatic updates can arrive when Microsoft has them prepared for your machine. Additionally, only uninstall a Windows update if you know your PC has an issue with its current software version.
- Keep networks secure. All your computers (desktops, laptops, smartphones), and other peripherals such as printers, when connected to WiFi, are often connected to the same network. Ensure a secure network with a password. Otherwise, your WiFi connection will be open. The best security today is with WPA or WPA2 encryption. You typically do not have much to worry about here, as all competitive WiFi providers automatically implement it. But make sure it stays that way after you begin using it by not disabling the encryption.
- Do not use open WiFi. You have heard the warning: stay away from that open WiFi you get at airports, unless you need it. The idea behind this warning is because the connection is considered public that it also means people with malicious intent have easy access to it. Thus, the information on your smartphones, tablets, and laptops cannot be properly protected with open WiFi connections.
The following tutorial demonstrates how to remove the malware from your computer.
How to Scan/Clean Android from Adware, Viruses & Other Malware
You can remove malware on the Android operating system by using the Malwarebytes application, which is available from the Google Play Store. Here is how you can do that:
Note: The Android operating system is available for smartphones and tablets. Not all tablets run on Android—or any mobile operating system—though. If your tablet runs on Windows 10—for example, if you were to detach the screen from a Surface Book to use it as a tablet—then you should use the desktop/laptop version of Malwarebytes instead. Only use this tutorial if your smartphone and tablet runs on a version of Android.
1. Open the Google Play Store app and download and install Malwarebytes by tapping on the Install button.
2. Tap on the Give permission button if it asks you to allow it permission to your storage and files.
Without access to your storage and files, the Malwarebytes application cannot scan the files for malware, so you have no choice other than to grant it the access that it needs.
3. If you get an option to Start a free trial, Buy premium or Skip, tap on the Skip button to perform a one-off scan.
If Malwarebytes updates its app to remove the Skip button, use the free trial button instead.
4. Tap on the Update database button if Malwarebytes needs to update its database.
You may need to update the Malwarebytes database before it can give you the best scan results possible.
5. Tap on the Run full scan button to scan the Android smartphone or tablet for malware.
6. The Malwarebytes app will let you know if malware was found or not. If it does find some, make sure you tap the option to remove it or keep it quarantined.
7. Swipe from left to right on your device’s display, and then tap on the Uninstall Malwarebytes link from the menu.
You can now exit the app and continue using your Android device if you like.
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