How to protect your Note 8 from malware or bad apps; fix for unwanted popups

Today’s #GalaxyNote8 article addresses one issue — how to remove annoying popups. As usual, a Note 8 user reached out to us for help regarding popups and random redirects she’s getting when using her phone. As you can see in her problem descriptions below, she’ll mention that she’s at a loss on what to do exactly, even after booting the device to safe mode. In this post, we discuss how these popups come into being and how to remove them once they’re already ingrained into the system. We also provide ways for you on how to prevent malware infection in your device after you’ve got rid of these popups.

We would also like to tell other smartphone users that majority of the preventive steps here can be applied to their Android device. Solutions in this post are therefore not limited to the Galaxy Note 8 but also for other Android phones out there.

If you are looking for solutions to your own #Android issue, you can contact us by using the link provided at the bottom of this page.

When describing your issue, please be as detailed as possible so we can easily pinpoint a relevant solution. If you can, kindly include the exact error messages you are getting to give us an idea where to start. If you have already tried some troubleshooting steps before emailing us, make sure to mention them so we can skip them in our answers.

Problem: How to protect your Note 8 from malware or bad apps, fix for unwanted popups

I keep getting ads popping up in the form of a drop down from the top right of my screen and many times it won’t go away until I click on it which sometimes takes me to an ad in Facebook, sometimes in Google, sometimes a random home page. I’ve had the Note 8 for about a month now and it just started doing this a few days ago. I’ve uninstalled all of the apps that I recently downloaded and TRIED to disable any ad options in other apps but it seems like the Note 8 doesn’t allow you to get into that much detail in the settings department. When I restart the phone, I will get a full screen ad that I can “x” out of and there are not any decent instructions out on the web on what to do after you put the phone into safe mode to try and fix this. — Sherice

Solution: Hi Sherice. Technically, Safe Mode is not a fix. It’s a way to confirm if a downloaded app is causing a problem or not. You can’t simply restart the phone to safe mode and expect the cause of the problem (bad or malicious third party app) to be removed from the system. In order to do that, you have to identify the culprit first, then remove it from the phone.

Overall, restarting your Note 8 to safe mode is only one of the things that you can do to fix the issue you’re having right now. Your Note 8 is clearly infected with a malicious app, which in turn on installed services or other apps that now hijack the system to regularly show ads. This means that you yourself installed the bad app first, either knowingly or not. We assume you’re not that stringent when it comes to filtering apps you install to your device.

We’re not blaming you for the problem though. Malicious app developers are constantly on the lookout for ways to entice users to install a malicious product. Some may make use of a legitimate app in the Play Store but once such legit app is updated, it may convert into its malicious form by infecting the phone, or compromising its security to allow downloads of a malicious service or app later on. The best thing that you can do is to think twice when installing ANY app. Even official looking ones may really be fake. If you’re not careful with what you install, it’s only a matter of time before your phone gets infected.

Restart your Note 8 to Safe Mode

For now, what you can do is try to restart the device to safe mode and hope that you’ll be able to remove the bad app. Here’s how:

  1. Turn the device off.
  2. Press and hold the Power key past the model name screen.
  3. When “SAMSUNG” appears on the screen, release the Power key.
  4. Immediately after releasing the Power key, press and hold the Volume down key.
  5. Continue to hold the Volume down key until the device finishes restarting.
  6. Safe mode will display in the bottom left corner of the screen.
  7. Release the Volume down key when you see Safe Mode.
  8. Uninstall recently installed apps. Make sure that you restart your Note 8 back to normal mode after removing an app. This will let you know whether or not removing that particular app solved the problem. If you have hundreds of apps, this can take a long time but it’s really the only way to identify the malicious app.
  9. Once you’ve identified the bad app, you can add the other apps you removed.

Wipe your Note 8

Alternatively, you can reverse the process of removing apps one by one by wiping the phone first, then installing apps individually. Just like in Safe Mode, you want to observe the phone after each installation to know if the phone will get re-infected. We don’t recommend this process of identifying a bad app but if you think it’s better than booting to safe mode, it’s your choice. To factory reset your Note 8, follow these steps:

  1. Create a backup of your important files.
  2. Turn off the device.
  3. Press and hold the Volume Up key and the Bixby key, then press and hold the Power key.
  4. When the green Android logo displays, release all keys (‘Installing system update’ will show for about 30 – 60 seconds before showing the Android system recovery menu options).
  5. Press the Volume down key several times to highlight wipe cache partition.
  6. Press Power button to select.
  7. Press the Volume down key until ‘yes’ is highlighted and press the Power button.
  8. When the wipe cache partition is complete, Reboot system now is highlighted.
  9. Press the Power key to restart the device.

How to protect your Note 8 from malware or bad apps in the future

In dealing with malware, prevention is the better option than having to remove the infection. Below are the preventive steps that you can do to protect your device from getting infected by malware:

Install apps from official sources only

Some apps may not be available in Google Play Store for whatever reason so their developers may make their installer packages called APKs available only from third party sites. This can be problematic. First of all, your phone will no longer enjoy the Google Play Store protection that screens apps. APKs from non-Play Store sites may be loaded with malicious codes that can compromise your phone’s security later on, opening it up for further installation of malicious apps and services. To ensure that your Note 8 is unable to install from third party sites, you have to disable Unknown sources option under Settings. Here’s how:

  1. Open Settings app.
  2. Tap Lock screen and security.
  3. Move slider for Unknown sources option to the left to disable it.

Enable Play Protect

As mentioned, installing apps from Google Play Store has its perks, one being the fact that apps are screened before they are made available for public consumption. This, however, is an automated mechanism and from time to time, brilliant malware writers can circumvent the system. Still, we highly recommend that you enable Play Protect in Play Store app to have a certain level of protection when browsing for apps. Here’s how:

  1. Open Google Play Store app.
  2. Tap Menu (three-horizontal line icon).
  3. Tap Play Protect.
  4. Turn on Scan device for security threats.

Stop notifications from a certain website

If you’re constantly getting notifications from a particular website, you can consider turning off its permissions by doing the following :

  1. On your Android phone or tablet, open the Chrome app.
  2. Go to a webpage.
  3. To the right of the address bar, tap More icon (three-dot icon) and then Info icon (circle with “i”).
  4. Tap Site settings.
  5. Under “Permissions,” tap Notifications.
  6. If you don’t see “Permissions” or “Notifications,” the site doesn’t have notifications turned on.
  7. Turn the setting off.

Avoid clicking or tapping on suspicious links

Don’t be an idiot. If something looks too good to be true, like when a link or page telling you that you’ve won lottery even if you can’t remember betting on something, it’s most probably not true. Our recommendation is to be mindful with things you click or tap. One tap is enough to allow a malicious code to run in the background and compromise your phone.

Also, if you haven’t installed an antivirus or run an antivirus scan lately, a warning of viruses or infection in your device may be a scare tactic to tempt you to download a bad app.

Do not download files or apps from unsafe sites

Like in a computer, Android malware can now be installed in a device via compromised files or apps so, again, don’t be an idiot by downloading apps from anywhere. Only get files and apps from known safe sources. This also means not visiting sites that may host malware or suspicious contents.

Install app and Android updates

There’s a constant cat-and-mouse relationship that exists between product makers/developers and malware writers. With vulnerabilities being discovered almost in a daily basis, it pays to be prepared all the time. When it comes to Android, installing app and operating system updates is one way to be prepared. Updates not only bring cosmetic changes but also fixes for known bugs. Make sure that your device is set to automatically install app and Android updates all the time.

Be mindful with apps you install

The most important thing to remember is that Android malware are spread by apps. If you have the tendency to install apps at whim, there’s a big chance your phone will most likely get infected sooner or later.

Keep in mind that building an app is a time consuming, costly endeavor. Developers have to be paid, tools have to be bought, and maintenance is even costlier. Frankly, there’s really no free app at all. All the free apps that you can install from the Play Store have to earn something in order to stay afloat. It’s not surprising that developers may employ various tactics to monetize their products. For some, this is done by flashing ads from time to time. Others may go to the extreme by simply lambasting a targeted device with countless ads to maximize ad revenue. Still others may take control of the device fully so they can install multiple codes to constantly flood ads all the time. On top of these annoying ads, bad apps may also collect your browsing history and habits, personal information like contacts, payment information, among others.

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