Security

Five Android antivirus products to add to your mobile arsenal

Scott Lowe highlights five free or inexpensive antivirus applications that are available for the Android platform.

Viruses, spyware, and other nasties — such as trojans — are commonplace on desktop platforms. Even the venerable Mac OS X operating system has begun to succumb to these threats, due to the rising popularity of the platform. As mobile devices gain traction, expand market share, and enable users to operate in new ways, malware is starting to find its way to these devices as well, necessitating a need to do what Windows users have done forever: Run anti-malware software.

Lookout Security and Antivirus

Michael Kassner, my TechRepublic colleague, recently covered Lookout in depth, and for good reason. Lookout Security and Antivirus is, by a wide margin, the most popular antivirus solution in the Android Market — and it's free!

I'm not going to go into too much detail on Lookout since Michael has dedicate a full column to this single product but, due to its popularity, I felt it important to include it here.

NetQin Security & Anti-virus

Although NetQin provides antivirus protection, the product also has some other capabilities:

  • Antivirus. NetQin uses two virus scanning engines — one local and one cloud-based — to protect the device. Malicious content and sites are blocked behind the scenes and proactively.
  • Traffic monitoring. The tool also helps you protect your wallet by monitoring data usage. This allows you to, if possible, reduce data usage before you go over whatever monthly cap has been set by your provider.
  • Performance optimization. Manage device performance by removing old files and close unused apps with a touch.
  • Contacts backup. Contacts are the lifeblood for many businesses. The tool provides the ability to back up your contacts list to an in-built SD card or to NetQin's servers.
  • Anti-lost. NetQin allows a user to locate a lost phone, sound an alarm on it, and identify its location. It also provides the ability to remotely wipe a device that has been lost.
At a price of exactly free, it's tough not to give NetQin Security & Anti-virus a look.  Figure A below shows you the tool's home screen (despite the fact that it says NetQin Mobile Security Pro at the top, which costs $19.99 in the Android Market). Figure A

The NetQin Security & Anti-virus home screen

Anti-Virus Free

AVG has been in the antivirus business for a long time, and they've extended their presence to the Android mobile space with Anti-Virus Free. This free tool provides the following comprehensive set of security and other features:

  • Protects your device and apps from viruses, malware, and spyware with a real-time scanner
  • Helps you to secure your device by identifying insecure device settings and providing mitigating advice
  • Checks files for malicious software and security threats
  • Helps keep your device operating at peak efficiency
  • Helps you to completely wipe all data on the device

The Anti-Virus Pro version (for $9.99 USD) adds a number of additional features, including:

  • Data backup
  • Support from the vendor in the event of problems
  • Resource conservation mechanisms to help preserve battery life
Below are two screen shots from Anti-Virus Free. Figure B shows you the product's Settings page, and Figure C shows the product blocking malicious content. Figure B

Anti-Virus Free's Settings page
Figure C

Malicious content is blocked in real time

Antivirus Free

Creative Apps' Antivirus Free isn't as popular as the AVG product, but it is certainly no slouch. The reviews are generally positive with some grumblings about the ads that come with the product. Although not all of the products mentioned here serve ads, it's important to remember that developers need some level of support in order to keep making products. So, if you don't like ads, get a paid product instead.

Antivirus Free is pretty much exactly what it says. It's an antivirus program without a bunch of bells and whistles. In Figure D below, you can see the Antivirus Free service is running and scanning in real time. In Figure E, the product is notifying the user regarding malicious activity. Figure D

The Antivirus Free service is running
Figure E

Malicious activity notification

Dr.Web Anti-Virus Light

The final free product in this roundup, Dr.Web Anti-virus Light, has what you would expect in an antivirus application, including real-time scanning capability and an on-demand scanner that allows you to scan files whenever you want. All storage mechanisms, including SD cards, are scanned.

The paid version of the Dr.Web product, Dr.Wed Anti-virus ($4.99 USD), provides additional features, including the creation of black lists, which allow you to block incoming calls and messages from certain numbers. This is actually a really handy feature!

Dr.Web uses what they call the Origins Tracing for Android, an algorithm intended to specifically identify viruses designed to attack Android devices. From the product documentation:

"This algorithm allows detecting the new virus families using the knowledge database on previous threats. Origins Tracing for Android can identify the recompiled viruses, e.g. Android.SMSSend, Android.MobileSpy, as well as the applications infected by Android.ADRD, Android.Geinimi, Android.DreamExploid."

Dr.Web also uses a technique called the SpIDer Guard file monitor, which scans all files in order to try to save them to memory, thus protecting the system from security threats.

There are three screenshots below — a quick scan in progress, the Security Center, and the paid version.

Figure F

A quick scan is in progress
Figure G

The Dr.Web Security Center
Figure H

The paid version of the product adds black list capability

Summary

There are a lot of free and inexpensive anti-malware applications available for the Android platform, and each of them have some unique features. The best part is that quite a few of them are full-featured and can meet the security needs for a wide range of devices. Let us know your experience with Android antivirus apps in the discussion thread below.

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About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

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