Does Your Android Smartphone Need an Antivirus?

Keep your phone safe with these security apps.

Many antivirus apps are available on the Google Play Store – but are they worth downloading? It is actually fairly difficult to know if Android smartphones need protection from Internet malware. Technically, Android viruses do not exist – at least not in the way they do on PCs. However, smartphones can be at risk of infection from other dangerous malware.

There are countless reports of Android phones getting infected, which is normal to expect since the OS has a weaker security system than iOS does. However, most smartphone users only download content (such as apps, games and music) from trusted sources, making it very unlikely that they’ll come across a malicious program.

Google already protects your phone – all Android devices have a software keeping them safe from intrusion. But for people who tend to sideload* apps, or root** their devices, external protection may be required.


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*transferring apps downloaded on a computer to their mobile phones

**exploiting a design flaw in the OS to gain access to resources which would otherwise be hidden from the user

Does my Android smartphone need an Antivirus?

Chances are you don’t. At least, not when it comes to dangerous malware – most people are already quite careful of what they’re doing on their phones, and the existing security system on your Android will be more than enough to protect it.


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Realistically, the only people who need to worry about Android viruses are those with more extensive use of their phones - sideloading apps, transferring data from one device to the other - where software from unknown or dangerous sources could potentially be infected.

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However, according to AV-Test CEO Andreas Marx , “antivirus (AV) is usually only one component of the offered Android protection packages. So a stand-alone AV is not yet required at all times, but it is a good-to-have feature as part of a bigger package. Such packages often include easy-to-use backup features for user’s data, remote wipe in case the phone gets lost, etc.”

So what does this mean? Viruses aren’t a major threat to Android devices, and this can make security apps seem superfluous. However, the biggest risk is loss and theft. Which is why AV apps also include remote wipe, to avoid someone getting access to your details – think of your banking apps, personal details, passcodes you may have stored on the Notes app…

Best security apps for Android

So what can you download to keep your personal information and smartphone safe? Most apps combine an antivirus with anti-theft and backup features – we’d suggest going for this over antivirus-only apps.

Here are some of our favourite:

1. 360 Security (free)

This app, developed in China, is one of the best security systems for Android phones. Not only does it have one of the highest malware detection rate (99.9%), it also features a junk file cleaner, privacy with encryption, and anti-theft tools to locate and remotely wipe your phone.

2. Avast Mobile Security & Anti-Virus (free)

A name you can trust, Avast bring their renowned antivirus protection to mobile. It combines malware detection with an anti-theft component derived from app Theft Aware, which Avast bought.

3. Bitdefender Mobile Security (£9.95 per year)

It’s a small price to pay for flawless virus protection coupled with privacy tools – and the anti-theft features incorporate your Android Wear watch. It’s also really easy to use.

4. McAfee Mobile Security (free)

McAfee’s mobile version of their well-known PC antivirus is one of the best when it comes to privacy and anti-theft protection – however, their malware detection rate is a little lower than the rest. But as we’ve established, this shouldn’t be an issue anyway.


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