The media is full of stories about a malicious computer program that infects Android devices, painting a picture that undoubtedly serves the interests of anti-virus software vendors who use scary tactics to convince people that they need their products.
Answer: Yes, absolutely. The most published report from RiskIQ found 25,000 “blacklisted” apps in the Google Play Store by 2019 (although it should be noted that this dropped by 76.4% from the 108,000 shocking apps by 2018).
And following a recent report, Google removed 24 malicious apps that were installed on an amazing 382 million devices in the Google Play Store by 2021. In its 2021 Malwarebytes Report, Malwarebytes found that the most common types of malware for Android include hidden ads, such as Android / Trojan, HiddenAds and Stalkerware.
So there is no doubt about it: A malicious Android computer program exists and is dangerous for Android users. For many, this simple fact alone will be an argument enough to use anti-malware applications, but there is some consideration first.
What do Android Antivirus apps really do?
In 2019, AV-Comparatives tested the capabilities of the top 250 antivirus applications for Android and services to detect the 2,000 most common variants of Android malware since last year. The results are very eye-catching:
- Only 23 of the 250 apps had a 100% acquisition rate (and 14 additional applications with an acquisition rate above 99%).
- Only 80 of them received more than 30% of the samples of a malware program without getting a lie.
- About 40% of applications are classified as “questionable / inactive”.
- Ironically, of the 138 questionable/inactive programs, few “have already been identified as Trojans, suspicious/fake AVs, or at least as ‘unwanted applications’ (PUA) with a few reputable mobile security apps”.
Many of these applications have failed to perform any type of actual scanning program that is not computer-friendly, instead simply comparing package names in the white list, and when found in the authorized clean list. And any app that isn’t on the approved list is blocked, even if installed from Google Play Store, resulting in a lot of false positives.
That being said, all the biggest anti-virus applications you may have heard of (except Comodo) have received 99% or more samples of malware, which means that if you choose an anti-virus application from a reputable anti-malware company. , then it will provide real and sound security for your device.
Reliable Android apps against malware scan each application, using both websites to detect known malware, as well as advanced heuristic analysis to detect new malware. They also monitor incoming and outgoing web traffic to smell suspicious activity. And as the results of AV-Comparatives show, if done right it can work very well.
That’s what even the best Android antivirus apps can do, however, prevent app developers from harvesting at least legally acquired data, and using that data for questionable advertising purposes. The only thing that can control this kind of immoral behaviour is Google.
What is the best antivirus for Android?
There are many options on the market, and we recommend that you read our anti-virus review to get the full picture of what is available. If you do not currently have an antivirus installed on your Android phone or tablet, you run a high risk. The internet is full of threats and exploits that could lead to your device being attacked by cybercriminals. They may steal your data, sign in to your accounts, and engage in fraud or identity theft.
Applications are scanned for malicious software
Google Bouncer software scans all applications downloaded to the Google Play Store to detect malicious software, and will also uninstall apps from your device if they are later found to contain malicious code.
- Human vigilance
Google uses a team of people to manually manage content in the Google Play Store. This is a major line of defence against applications that abuse data collected with permissions that appear to be legal. Google usually does the same amount of manual labour for this, but with nearly 3 million apps in the Google Play Store, it is impossible to provide a detailed analysis of them all.
- Excellent control over app permissions
Android apps badly abuse all possible permissions, no matter how much they are required. Google has since brought this developer behaviour under greater control than before, but it is still very much possible. You can review the permissions of the application you are requesting from the Google Play Store before installing it, although these can be displayed as brightly as we would like.
- Premium level SMS messages blocked
Android 4.2 has fortunately stopped the old scam by blocking apps from sending high-quality SMS messages. Honestly, we can think of very few apps that should have SMS access at all.