Android is by far and away the most popular mobile operating system, being installed on the vast majority of devices out there, so it’s no surprise that the vast majority of mobile malware is targeted at Google’s OS. And often that malware is hidden inside bogus apps.
For this reason, by default most Android devices do not allow installation of software from unknown sources such as app stores outside of the officially sanctioned Google Play. You’re running big risks grabbing programs from such third-party stores.
At any rate, whatever software you use with your Android phone or tablet, you’d be wise to have an antivirus or a security app installed on your device. In this article, we’re going to highlight 10 of the best antivirus efforts.
Many of them do much more than run automatic scans, and they’ll actively try to prevent malicious web pages and files from being opened or downloaded in the first place.
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AVL is a former winner of the AV-Test (a well-respected independent antivirus testing outfit) award for best protection of mobile devices. Its features include not only an antivirus database (of course) but a scanner capable of detecting any kind of executable file making its way onto your device.
Other handy features include a call blocker to prevent malicious numbers from contacting you, as well as an anti-phishing feature to stop harmful websites from loading in the first place. The app is also designed to be light on resources, which is always handy when you’re struggling for battery life.
2. Avast Mobile Security
Antivirus giant Avast has used its considerable skills to create an app which goes above and beyond a mundane scanner. Extra features in the free version include a call blocker, firewall and even an anti-theft measure allowing you to remotely lock or wipe your Android device if it goes missing.
The app used to be paid but is now free, supported by ads. You can pay a small monthly or yearly premium to remove these. Another very useful premium feature is ‘in-app locking’ whereby your device will ask for a PIN before opening certain apps. This prevents malware from launching apps such as internet banking automatically.
3. Bitdefender Antivirus Free
Bitdefender is a big name in the security community, and its free antivirus program is extremely lightweight. In fact, it doesn’t run in the background which frees up system resources, although this does mean you have to schedule scans or run them manually to be safe. This said, any new apps downloaded to your device are automatically scanned.
Another advantage of this app is that it’s ready to go as soon as it is installed – no additional configuration is required.
If you require extra security, sign up for a free 14-day trial of Bitdefender Mobile Security. This includes the basic antivirus as well as real-time protection for the Chrome browser and anti-theft features.
4. McAfee Security & Power Booster Free
McAfee is another well-known name when it comes to antivirus software for the PC, and this Android app doesn’t disappoint. Besides the antivirus scanner itself, free features include tracking a lost device as well as locking and wiping it remotely. If your device is stolen, the app can even take a picture of the thief…
Other features include the ability to scan apps to check if they leak sensitive information, and lock them if necessary. McAfee will also block access to potentially malicious websites, as well as allow you to keep a blacklist of nuisance callers and texters.
The paid Premium version of the app allows you to remove ads and receive phone support.
5. Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus
Kaspersky has a reputation up there with the big players like Bitdefender. The free version of its security app has some impressive features, and it’s very good at picking up on malware, with a detection rate of 99.9% according to AV-Test’s trials from last November.
Kaspersky Antivirus & Security will also try to block any malicious sites or links before you click through to them, preventing an infection from happening in the first place.
On downloading the app you’ll be given a free 30-day trial of Kaspersky Internet Security (it costs $14.95 a year thereafter – £9.99, or around AU$20). The premium version of the app has extra security features such as call and text filtering.
6. Sophos Free Antivirus and Security
Sophos’ free antivirus app has previously won the AV-Test award for best protection in 2015. Unlike other free scanners, Sophos doesn’t contain any adverts. It does, however, block websites with potentially spammy or illegal content.
Apps are scanned for malware or otherwise harmful content as they are installed and Sophos alerts you if they might leak any sensitive information. The antivirus scanner can be scheduled to scan files and folders periodically, and the malware database itself is updated daily.
The app also includes a handy QR code scanner which can be used to set up secure Wi-Fi connections. There’s also an authenticator that can generate one-time passwords for two-factor authentication.
7. Norton Security and Antivirus
This free app from Norton was able to detect 100% of all Android malware when benchmarked by AV-Test a few months ago. The scanner is powered by Norton Mobile Insight and can detect viruses inside apps and files, then remove them automatically.
Other useful security features include the ability to lock your phone via an SMS message, or if the SIM card is removed. You can also choose to remotely lock your device if it goes missing (or have it locked after 10 unsuccessful attempts to enter the passcode).
The app comes with a 30-day trial of Norton Mobile Security which boasts extra features such as SafeWeb filtering that blocks malicious websites.
8. Trend Micro Mobile Security & Antivirus
Trend Micro’s effort not only scans new apps for malware, but prevents newly installed apps from accessing other programs, which can be useful for device admins and parents.
There’s also a built-in privacy scanner for Facebook which warns you if your profile settings are displaying sensitive personal information.
The free version includes a 7-day trial of premium features. These include a malware blocker which is capable of scanning apps before they are even installed to pre-emptively avoid any potential infection. There are also utilities for safe surfing, as well as call and text filtering.
9. AhnLab V3 Mobile Security
This security app from South Korean AhnLab is not as famous as the others on this list, but nonetheless has very high detection rates for Android malware according to AV-Test (99.6%) and runs well even on older Android devices. Indeed, it has a built-in booster to help speed up your phone’s performance.
The app comes with a free 10-day trial of the anti-malware features which proactively search for vulnerabilities and warn you if apps could potentially leak sensitive personal information.
Other handy privacy features include a hidden gallery for personal photos and a privacy cleaner to securely clear your browsing history. Anti-theft measures include an alarm which kicks in if the device is reported lost or the SIM card is replaced. You can also remotely track, lock and wipe your device.
10. Avira Antivirus Security
Avira’s mobile offering will not only scan files you download and content on your phone’s memory, but it can also scan external storage such as your SD card. Applications are rated using a privacy scale to help you easily decide how much they can be trusted with your data.
The integrated ‘Identity Safeguard’ regularly checks if the email addresses in your contacts list have been involved in any major data breaches. The app is controlled by a web-based management portal, which is extremely useful if you want to set up a common policy over multiple Android devices.
The premium version includes better support, automatic blocking of malicious websites, and more frequent updates.