In the Windows’ world I have always used anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software so, with an Android tablet, the question is raised of the necessity of such security software on this platform. Certainly some commentators on the web suggest that Android-based smart phones and tablets are a huge target for malware writers, and there are many reviews of anti-virus software designed for Android. But, if you were following the postings last fall, you might have been discouraged by reports that almost all such software was pretty well useless. Then, after sober second thought, and a fair amount of industry input, it seems that someone had made a mistake.
Alan Henry, writing on lifehacker, noted: “The one thing that can’t be refuted is that the amount of malware for the Android platform has skyrocketed. After all, it’s only natural for malware authors to target one of the most popular and fastest growing mobile platforms.” This sounds perfectly reasonable. After all, most malware is written to attack Windows’ systems since this is by far the most common operating system in use. Android is becoming increasingly common, especially on smart phones, so clearly an anti-virus defence should be mounted. But, which package should be employed?
The initial posts on this subject that I read quoted the results of a November, 2011 test (by AV-TEST, Magdeburg, Germany) of several anti-virus products for which the results had been extremely poor. For example, Ryan Whitwam, writing for ExtremeTech, indicated: “It was quite the cavalcade of failure when the apps were used to scan an Android device loaded down with recent, and very real malware. Six of the seven free apps tested failed to get above 10% detection.”
But, when it comes to the Internet, it’s often wise to seek out additional sources of information and, in this case, to look for later reports of anti-virus testing. Sure enough, some of the tests in question had been found to be flawed, and subsequent re-testing of certain products in March, 2012 showed them to be quite effective: “Level 1 detected 90 percent or more of the malware…”
Now, a 90% detection rate isn’t great, but it’s certainly better then nothing. And, when combined with a strategy of only obtaining apps from a reasonably secure source (e.g. Google Play), where it’s likely that all the software being offered has been screened before being posted to the market, one of the better anti-virus products is probably a good bet to avoid trouble.
In the past, in the Windows’ world, I have found good suggestions for useful software on a number of reputable web sites, including those of some of the computer magazines and CNET. So, when I found a review on CNET’s web site for a free anti-virus program for which a “…broad range of effective mobile device-specific security features are coupled with a minimal performance hit, making it a must-have app.”, and a program that received a 5-star rating, my solution of choice was determined as Lookout Mobile Security for Android.
This product is one of those in the 90% detection category in AV-TEST’s suite of tests and I particularly liked CNET’s comment regarding the “minimal performance hit”. Conversely, studying the details of one of the comparison tables in AV-TEST’s report suggests that there may be some slightly better options in terms of detection of different malware families. The report does note that these issues may be fixed through the provision of updated signature files, or may be an artefact of different definitions of malware (i.e. actual malevolence vs. simple annoyance).
Time for some more research – to be conducted while sitting behind Lookout’s Mobile Security screen!
Do Android Antivirus Apps Actually Do Anything?
Android antivirus apps are useless, here’s what to do instead
Android antivirus apps improve their grades–just not very much
Best Android antivirus apps revealed by AV-TEST Labs
Test: Malware Protection for Android – March 2012
Lookout Mobile Security for Android
Lookout Mobile Security