Best antivirus apps for Android 2013

January 4, 2013

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Update: Check out our new best Android antivirus app list.

The malware situation for Android doesn’t seem to be improving and although the vast majority of these¬†malicious¬†apps are spread via third party appstores (often in¬†China or Russia) there have been quite a number of apps which,¬†temporarily¬†at least, made there way into the Google Play Store. It is estimated that in any given three month¬†period¬†around¬†50,000 new bits of Android malware appear,¬†fortunately¬†less than 150 of those actually make it into the Google Play Store. However 150 is still enough to warrant the use of an anti-virus app for Android. There are a whole range of anti-virus and security¬†products¬†available¬†for¬†Android, some are free, some are paid for, some are bad and some are great. Here is a round-up of some of the best.

Avast

avast2

avast! Mobile Security is a free app that includes a not only an anti-virus component but also a wide range of security tools including  a  privacy scanner, an app manager and a web shield that scans each URL and warns you if it’s a known malware-infected web site. It also includes a USSD blocker which stops any dangerous USSD commands like those discovered for Samsung smartphones in the later part of last year. For rooted devices it also has a firewall.

There is also a large number of anti-theft options including the ability to control your phone via SMS and perform actions like a history wipe, phone lock, and siren activation.

When you first run avast! it will automatically scan your device for any malware that has crept in¬†unawares¬†and then it switches to real-time protection mode.¬†According to the Android antivirus tests carried out by av-test.org, avast is “easy to use and ¬†has many features to protect your¬†device. With its very good¬†detection rate it is one of the best ¬†security products for your Android¬†device.”

AVG

AVG-Free-android

Like many of the apps in this list AVG AntiVirus comes originally from the world of Windows and the humble PC. For Android it comes in two version the free app and the premium PRO version. AVG has come a long way since I reviewed it in 2012. It was a good product then and it is even better now. The UI has been updated and is much easier to use than previously. After installation you need to manually kickoff the first scan. Until you do the app will show some red warning indicators.

During the first scan AVG noticed that the phone was set to allow the¬†installation¬†of apps from¬†external¬†(unknown) sources. This is set on my¬†device¬†as I have the Amazon appstore installed. AVG is right, this does present a level of risk but the risk factor is low. Ticking “ignore this threat” will make the warning¬†disappear.

Like many of the other anti-virus apps, AVG is more than just an anti-virus scanner. It includes a task killer, a battery optimizer, real time protection from unsafe websites and an anti-theft / phone location service.

The free version comes with 14 days of access to the PRO features which include an App Locker, which blocks the¬†launching¬†of an app unless the password is entered, and the ability to backup your apps to the phone’s SD card.

Bitdefender

bitdefender-android

Bitdefender has a whole range of apps for Android including its Mobile Security & Antivirus app. The app is free to download and use but there is a caveat. When you first run the app you need to sign in either with a Bitdefender account or with your Gmail account.

Once in, you are prompted to run a full scan. Running the full scan checks the installed apps and the file on the phone’s storage. In the last phase the scanner attempts to¬†contact¬†Bitdefender’s¬†servers (for what reason I don’t know) and this failed for me¬†repeatedly.¬†The app then reported “Scan failed. Check your internet connection.” ¬†I don’t know if the problem is with the app or with Bitdefender’s servers but when I installed it on a second device I got the same error. Because of this, the warning about running the first scan never disappears but the app does say that the real time¬†scanning for app¬†installation¬†is still active.

The free versions comes with 14 days of access to the PRO features which include real time web browsing protection and the anti-theft service. Unlike many of the other premium apps, which charge a one time fee, to use the full features of Bitdefender you need to pay $9.95 per year.

Dr. Web

dr-web-android

Dr. Web Anti-virus Light¬†is a free antivirus app for Android but unlike the offerings from AVG or avast! it doesn’t provide any additional security functions. Having said that it was ranked second during Android¬†anti-virus tests carried out by¬†av-test.org.

Unlike apps like avast!, when Dr. Web is installed it will not¬†initially¬†perform an automatic scan of the previously installed apps, nor does it automatically switch on real time protection. To do this you need to manually update the virus definitions, start a scan and then¬†activate¬†the “SpIDer Guard”. Once all that has been done Dr. Web behaves much like AVG and avast! in terms of real time app installation scanning.

For functions like  anti-theft, anti-spam and URL checking to block potentially dangerous web sites Dr. Web has a full anti-virus app which costs around $13 per year (depending on which currency you pay with).

Ikarus

IKARUS-android

Ikarus is a new entry as it wasn’t covered in the previous best anti-virus for Android review. Made by the¬†Austrian¬†company¬†IKARUS Security Software its¬†heritage¬†is impressive since the¬†company¬†was founded in 1986! Once installed the app automatically updates its virus database and starts a scan of the device. Once completed the real time app installation scanning feature is activated. The program also has a USSD blocker and it is possible to schedule scans of your apps and data to begin automatically (every day, every second day, every week and so on).¬†The app did well in the av-test.org tests, coming fourth.

The full version, called IKARUS mobile.security 2013, includes anti-theft and phone locations features as well as SMS message black listing. There is no real time web URL checking or privacy advisor. The full version is quite expensive at $26.

Kaspersky

kaspersky-android

Kaspersky Mobile Security Lite is the free version of Kaspersky’s full¬†Mobile Security app¬†with the main differences being the addition, in the full version,¬†of a SIM watch option in the¬†anti-theft protection, call & SMS filtering plus privacy¬†features¬†(which can hide designated contacts, and controls what others can see and access on your phone).

Upon installation you need to define a security code which is used by features like the anti-theft protector to activate different commands. There is no option to perform a scan on your existing apps or data  but the real time scanning of newly installed apps is enabled by default.

The Lite version is quite limited and in many ways just serves as an demo for the full version. During  av-test.org tests Kaspersky ranked 4th and the Lite version will do the same job in terms of detecting malware but with limited security functionality.

NQ Mobile

NQ-android

NQ Mobile Security & Antivirus is a free app with the option to upgrade to the premium version with extra features. Once installed the app performs a system checkup which includes downloading the latest virus information and scanning the installed apps. The real-time protection is automatically activated which includes malicious URL blocking. For several of the different online features like backing-up contact an account at nq.com is needed.

The UI is pleasant with swipe left and right used to access different parts of the app. A swipe to the left opens the tools section which includes an app manager, a network manager and access to the Internet protection subsystem.

The premium upgrade (which costs $19.99 a year) enables more anti-theft features (like sound an alarm, locate your phone, lock the phone and wipe) and anti-eavesdropping protection which alerts you if any form of spyware is installed on your phone.

Lookout

lookout-android

 

Lookout Security & Antivirus¬†is another free / premium offering. The security features are free but you need to¬†upgrade to Lookout Premium for $2.99/month to get everything. On start up the app asks you to sign into lookout.com (or create an account if you don’t have one). Once past that step, there are a few screens about the difference between the free and premium versions and¬†finally¬†you get to the app itself. A scan of the existing apps starts automatically as does the missing device service. The real time protection for installing apps is also activated automatically. The free version also lets you backup your contacts to lookup.com. One interesting feature in the missing device functionality is called¬†Signal Flare that automatically saves your device’s location before it runs out of battery!

The lookout.com website is surprisingly easy to use. You sign in with the same email and password created when you started the app and from there most functions including settings can be changed via the web. The missing device service works well enough and there is also a scream function that makes your device emit a loud siren for 60 seconds!

Missing in the free version is the dangerous URL blocking, the privacy advisor, remote lock/wipe and the ability to transfer your pictures and call history to a new device via lookout.com.

Zoner

zoner-android

On first run this Zoner AntiVrus Free offers a number of choices including an initial scan of the device plus the ability to enable phone filtering (to block calls and messages from certain numbers). Once the scan is done real-time scanning of installed apps is activated and a warning is displayed about any settings that need your attention Рlike configuring the missing device service. There is also a permissions checker and a task manager. The addition of the missing device service and SIM protection are new since my last round-up of security apps.

A unique feature of Zoner AntiVirus Free is that it allows you to send encrypted messages to your friends. They also need to have Zoner AntiVirus installed. How it works is that messages are encrypted using a password and at the receiving end, the same password must be entered to decrypt the message and read it!

There is also a paid version called Zoner Mobile Security which adds Ads detection and the ability to backup & restore SMS messages and call logs.

Honorable mentions

The truth is that there are lots of decent anti-virus and security apps for Android. Here are a few which are also worth checking out.

F-Secure Mobile Security¬†– This app isn’t free but it does come with a full range of¬†security¬†options including anti-theft features, browsing protection parental control (to keeps children safe from unsuitable web content) and safe contacts (which helps you to avoid unwanted calls or messages).

MYAndroid Protection Security РTo use this premium app, you need to pay a yearly fee, however it is comprehensive in that it includes anti-virus, anti-theft, app backup and credit card & identity theft protection.

McAfee РThis app is from the best known anti-virus company in the world and it boasts a whole load of features that go far beyond just anti-virus scanning. Along with anti-theft features, call blocking and safe web surfing, the app also includes uninstall protection that stops others from uninstalling the app and accessing your device. A free trial can be downloaded from Google Play. It runs for seven days then you need to purchase an upgrade  from within the app.

Conclusion

All the apps listed here performed well in the av-test.org Android malware tests. The only problem is that those tests were carried out during March 2012, so the results are a little outdated. However it is unlikely that any of the apps have regressed in terms of their AV capabilities.  If I was forced to choose I would go with avast! as it is completely free and offers lots more besides anti-virus scanning including a find my phone locator service. If you are not comfortable with using a completely free app then I would recommend AVG or Lookout. The improvements to Zoner were a nice surprise and have made it a worthy competitor.

Comments

  • Raj

    Wishing Android 5.0 may have something inbuilt for scanning malware

    • MasterMuffin

      have you heard of this thing called android 4.2? It has it (though it isn’t yet so good but still) :)

      • harrold

        has what?

        • MasterMuffin

          If you read the comment that I replied to, you’ll see (only 10 words you can do it)

          • harrold

            no not that but android 4.2.2 has….?

          • MasterMuffin

            Reading problems? Well here it comes with caps lock BUILT-IN MALWARE SCANNER :)

          • harrold

            um.. no. Wel u could have said that :D

  • MasterMuffin

    Avast is and always will be the best.Why there’s no F-Secure?

    • http://www.garysims.co.uk garysims

      F-Secure is in the Honorable mentions section.

      • MasterMuffin

        oh yea, I missed that I thought it was part of the zoner info (I skipped the last two) >.<

  • Freeman

    I got the total bitdefender package from http://www.anti-virus4u.com/
    excellent deal for the new year
    My question is if the antivirus can block the latest security breach of samsung for my samsung galaxy?

  • Paco

    Gary, good article. Thanks! I do have a question …are ther compatability issues between the mobile device security apps and PC anti-virus. Specifically, did your team test for issues running Avast on the mobile and McAfee on the PC?

  • rickneworleansla

    Were there any comparison tests done on phone performance? Which of these slow down the phone more than others?

  • Qliphah

    ioBits One Care is my favorite after trying a 1/2 dozen others. It does the AV/ad scanning, battery saving, task killer and storage cleanup for free. The game speeder seems to work but being that it’s just a task killer it could cause problems.

    http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/keeping-your-droid-safe-and-secure-with-advanced-mobile-care-2-0-android/

    That being said I also don’t believe all the hype these antivirus apps claim. And 99% of the time I would rather have those resources to run other things. Most AVs are 90% fluff with buttons and pretty pictures (I know I picked the flashiest one anyways) but no real reason to run 100% of the time. It’s new apps with unknown exploits and browser exploits that will be the most harmful and yet there’s nothing any of these really do to stop them.

  • MoogleStiltzkin

    the first thing you need to ask is, can the AV be installed in the root …. for emergencies where your phone gets stolen and the thief tries to wipe your phone or remove your SD ….

    out of all these AV in your review, it looks like only Avast can do this.

    So avast wins hands down. It’s free and effective at scanning to boot !

  • Namastevirus

    What about quick heal?I think it deserves a mention in this list at least.

  • Kiran Choudhary

    Antivirus Test 2013 – Who offers the best antivirus program in the test?

    Online Antivirus Test 2013 – Which is the best antivirus program in the test? We tested eight different programs for you. Buy the Test!

    1 Place: Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 2013 – Test Winner

    2 Place: Kaspersky Internet Security 2013 – Best in Performance

    3 Place: McAfee Internet Security 2013

    4 Place: Norton Internet Security 2013

    5 Position: G Data Internet Security 2013 – Very good protection

    6 Place: BitDefender Internet Security 2013

    7 Course: F-Secure Internet Security 2013

    8 Place: ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite

    Visit us- www[dot]antivirus-programme-test[dot]de

  • FreeApp Andro

    i wonder if they really protect our gadgets as they say here or here http://www.androidfreeapp.net/best-antivirus-for-android/

  • pocketdrummer

    What about ESET? I haven’t had a single issue on my computer since I installed Eset’s NOD32 on my computer. I’d imagine it’s as effective on a mobile device as well.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.eset.ems2.gp&referrer=utm_source%3Deset.com%26utm_medium%3Dreferral%26utm_campaign%3Dglobal-web

  • indrancharan

    Ikarus scanning process drains my battery fulllllll o chit