Android Anti-Virus

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!

References:

Do Android Antivirus Apps Actually Do Anything?
http://lifehacker.com/5861757/do-android-antivirus-apps-actually-do-anything

Android antivirus apps are useless, here’s what to do instead
http://www.extremetech.com/computing/104827-android-antivirus-apps-are-useless-heres-what-to-do-instead

Android antivirus apps improve their grades–just not very much
http://download.cnet.com/8301-2007_4-57398501-12/android-antivirus-apps-improve-their-grades-just-not-very-much/

Best Android antivirus apps revealed by AV-TEST Labs
http://www.geek.com/articles/mobile/best-android-antivirus-apps-revealed-by-av-test-labs-2012036/

Test: Malware Protection for Android – March 2012
http://www.av-test.org/en/tests/android/

Lookout Mobile Security for Android
http://download.cnet.com/Lookout-Mobile-Security-for-Android/3000-2239_4-75157534.html

Lookout Mobile Security
https://www.mylookout.com/

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One Response to Android Anti-Virus

  1. Mac Gyver says:

    uhhh O K!

    Now I’ve used andoid forever and never have gotten a virus except for some pathetic intentionally malprogrammed app of chinese origin that bricked one of my first android devices. An ancient eken tablet 1.5 which I happed to revive from a cwm backup. We all know that the worst spyware on a device with android is google services and on the random chinese phone, a backdoor app with dangerous permissions enabled and access to everything.
    Even by rooting the phone with kingo root puts an “infected” superuser app with just idiotic backdoor-like capabilites.

    Not to mention analyzing what’s in /system/app for starters, checking for suspicious apps or permissions that apps have access to, or apps that are just spy services instead of actually being usable by the user, looking at autorun behaviour, deleting googles adware system, changing default dns servers, eliminating everything google-related all the way to the basic of services like the initial early google init services, eliminate google account support, the “heartbeat” that’s sent to google, remove google id.

    That’s what I’ve doneto my lanix Android 4.4.4 and teaching as many people as I can to learn how to avoid the myths mentioned in this article.

    For one, how can one trust Google Play when most software is not free (free as in freedom not in free beer) which can be scrutinized for malicious code by a true gnu/linux community instead of blindly trusting a for-profit proprietary closed-source hypocritical spy/adware propagator such as Google.

    App stores such as F-droid repo are less ridden with garbage spy apps than Playstore and tend to port quality functional apps in constant development.Their app clearly displays if an app is free open software or not or if it spys on you or tracks your activities or if it is littered with adware like 99.999999% of all apps on GooglePlay. Even the good apps have ads.

    Ads are {beep} and the Internet has gone to hell for it. People make a living for it but nobody wants it. People are fighting back by changing their privacy patterns and habits.
    Why is Lucky Patcher such an awesome app made by a russian designed to eliminate google spyware and to improve the androis system way beyond what is offered by google themselves that lets any root user deeply optimize and know their system to a very extensive degree.

    Most antivirus and “cleaner” I’ve tested on other’s devices give false positves, try to install launchers which bog down and run the system for you, have a huge memory footprint (like google bloatware) and basically try to back door the system and blatantly violate your privacy.

    I used to have respect for google years before android but now I use duckduckgo and after the Snowden incident well, do your homework.
    Keep the lies coming!

    There is a reason googlehas something against cwm recovery or leave su accessible on stock android. But Google isn’t so bad in controlling it’s users experience and thinking that whatever they create must be just right for everybody and that everything they do is good for us and we must take it like served on a silver platter.

    That is why I have never bought an Apple product.

    But then 72,000,000,000 idiots can’t be wrong!

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