Your phone probably has sensitive information on it, so it may be a good idea to install some security software on it. There’s some debate about whether you really need antivirus apps on your smartphone. Much depends on whether you sideload apps, but there’s no denying that malware has grown into a much greater concern since we first wrote this article back in 2012. Luckily, security apps have improved dramatically to keep pace with the new threats, so you have plenty of great protection to choose from.
The majority of security apps go beyond antivirus protection for Android to include a host of other tools from contact filtering to remote lock or wipe. We decided to take a look at the top five Android security apps and find out what they do. We are taking a look at these from a consumer point of view, so be warned that some of the “free” apps are only free for personal, non-commercial use.
Trend Micro Mobile Security & Antivirus
Averaging a 99.9 percent malware detection rate over the last two years, Trend Micro is a consistently solid choice. In the latest report, it managed 100 percent for real-time detection and 100 percent for malware discovered in the last four weeks. It also returned no false positives and it won’t impact noticeably on battery life or performance.
You get a handful of other tools with the free version of Trend Micro’s app. There’s protection against phishing sites, a privacy scanner for Facebook, and some tools to help you save battery life and memory. There’s also a neat “Just-a-Phone” feature that kills all non-essential background processes. There’s a 7-day free trial of the premium features, which include malware blocking and cleaning, anti-theft tools, app locking, call filtering, and more. At $36 per year, we’re not convinced it’s worth it, but the free version will cover you for malware detection and it already has some handy extras.
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Avast Mobile Security
As a genuinely free app for the Android platform, Avast Mobile Security offers an impressive range of tools. It has antivirus protection, it scans your apps to provide details on what they are doing, and it has a web shield that scans URLs for malware.
There are various additional tools in the package including a call blocker for blacklisting problem numbers, an app locker to PIN protect private apps, and Wi-Fi scanning options for improved security and speed. Sadly, the app locking and anti-theft features require you to subscribe to the “Pro” version, which also removes ads and gives you direct support access from the app.
If you have a rooted device, then there’s also a firewall that allows you to control network traffic. You can block access to Wi-Fi or the network for specific apps, which is handy for security and may potentially save battery life as well.
According to the latest AV-Test report of 21 popular Android security apps from September 2017, Avast is a solid option with a detection rate of the latest Android malware in real time of 99.8 percent, rising to 100 percent for malware discovered in the last four weeks. That puts it near the very top of the charts in terms of malware detection, which, combined with the extra functionality, makes it worth considering. It has a light footprint with no discernible drain on battery life and no impact on general performance. It also returned no false positives.
The free version of this Android security app provides a decent range of features, keeps you safe from malware, and offers extra protection for rooted devices, making it a strong contender. If you’re looking for a security solution for your Android smartphone, and your primary concern is malware and safe browsing, then this could be the right app for you.
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Sophos Mobile Security
There are a lot of really good Android security apps out there, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that offers this many features, scores a 100 percent detection rate for malware in real-time, and costs absolutely nothing.
Sophos Mobile Security has been a top performer for months, consistently boasting a 100 percent detection rate for Android malware according to AV-Test. It returned no false positives. It offers robust scanning covering installation, existing apps, and storage media.
You also get an impressive package of extras including loss and theft protection, with support for wipe, lock, alarm, locate, and more via SMS. There’s also web filtering, password protection for apps, spam blocking, privacy and security advice, and a few other tools.
It’s not the prettiest app on the list, but it performs admirably, with minimal impact on your phone in terms of processing, networking, and battery life. Best of all, this is a genuinely free app with a solid list of fully accessible features and without any advertising.
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Some of you are probably just looking for malware protection that’s as barebones as possible. If you don’t want anti-theft tools, or identity protection, or any of the other possibly superfluous features that come in many security apps, then AVL will suit you.
This app scored a 100 percent detection rate for real-time Android malware in the latest tests and 100 percent for malware from the last four weeks, with no false positives. AV-Test also found performance was good with no undue impact on speed or battery life. AVL can scan a variety of file formats beyond APKs and it’s designed to be fast and efficient. If you like it, but you want more, there is an AVL Pro app available, too.
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Cheetah Mobile Security Master
This popular security app is a new entry on this year’s list and it’s a comprehensive security app with a lot to offer. The antivirus protection scans for malware and spyware, but there’s also VPN protection built in to safeguard your browsing, messaging, and online banking and shopping. Android VPN apps are very important if you want to stay safe and maintain your privacy online.
Cheetah Mobile’s Security Master scored a perfect 100 percent for real-time detection and 100 percent for malware discovered in the last four weeks in AV-Test’s latest report. It also has no discernible impact on battery life or smartphone performance.
With a host of additional features including app lock, notification clean up, intruder selfies, and more, this may be the right app for people seeking a comprehensive security solution. The interface is designed to be simple and accessible, which is part of the reason this app has such wide appeal.
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In the most recent September 2017 tests, only 6 out of 21 apps tested managed a 100 percent detection rate in real-time. We had to drop Avira Antivirus Security from this year’s list, mainly due to a decline in malware detection rates, but it’s still a decent alternative if you don’t like any of our picks.
From the big name security software brands, Kaspersky and Norton will attract many people because they are familiar names, but compared to some of the free options there’s really nothing there to justify the price tags. Same goes for the excellent Bitdefender Mobile Security & Antivirus. Bitdefender and Norton did score 100 percent in September’s test, but they are only free trials and will bug you about paying out an annual subscription.
Winner: Trend Micro Mobile Security & Antivirus
You can read about whether you actually need antivirus protection and run through some common sense ways to safeguard your Android device in the next two parts of this security series. However, if you do want to go ahead and get antivirus protection for Android, then Trend Micro Mobile Security & Antivirus is your best bet right now. It offers a good blend of protection and handy features, without a lot of superfluous extras, and detection rates are consistently at the kind of high level you’d expect from a premium app. If you don’t fancy it, last year’s winner, Sophos Mobile Security, is equally excellent.
Update: Refreshed text, screenshots, and test results, added Cheetah Mobile Security Master and picked a new winner.
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