If you are seeing fullscreen ads in all your apps, there is adware on your cellphone. The good news is that detecting and removing it only takes a minute. Let us explain how.
A worried friend contacted me recently when she was seeing popup advertisements every time she opened an app on her smartphone. This was even happening in WhatsApp. “Do I have a virus?” she asked me; closing advertisements every time was a great hassle.
I suspected that the culprit causing advertisements to appear in all her apps was a malicious app which had somehow installed itself on her phone, rather than a virus. As my friend couldn’t remember what she had installed, I resorted to the method which I will explain below.
Step 1: Hope that the advertisement will appear in an app
To capture the spamming app you have to let it do its thing. Open other apps until the advertisement comes up, but do nothing more. Leave it on screen.
Here it is, the spammy popup!
Step 2: Press the Menu or Recent Apps button.
Thanks to Android’s Recent Apps function, you can see your apps in the order in which they were opened. The button varies across devices.
Different shapes and positions of the “Menu” button (source)
Step 3: See which app comes last in the list
In the Recent Apps view, look at the last one. In the thumbnail you’ll see the advertisement or a blank square. The malware uses icons and generic names to hide itself.
Generic name, default icon, an ad… It’s the adware!
Step 4: Go to Settings > Apps and delete the App responsible
Go to Android’s application settings, find the app whose name you had already noted down, and uninstall it. If for some reason this option is not available, select “Disable”.
Step 5: Open other apps to see if the advertisement is gone
Test if the uninstallation has solved the problem. You may have more than one adware application installed, in which case repeat steps 1-4 until you have cleaned your device.
Be careful when installing apps
The majority of malicious apps which cause this phenomenon are installed from sources other than Google Play. Downloading apps in APK format is generally very safe, but be careful when you are authorizing their installation, as some can surprise you.
To improve the security of your Android device, read our mini-guide.