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Anti-Virus, Anti-Malware, Anti-Theft

Do you really need an AV app on Android? Let's see. There's an interesting graph at phandroid.com, and also a collection of relevant apps at AndroidAuthority. But there's also the conclusion that "many av scanners are useless" (Viele Android-Virenscanner sind nutzlos), or even a security risk themselves (Android-Virenscanner bringen schwere Sicherheitslücken mit). And one should also pay attention to "false security apps": some Trojans pose as security suite (ZitMo Trojaner tarnt sich als Android Security Suite Premium, 6/2012). And what seems "safe and secure" by rating and "big names" might turn out being nothing but a placebo.

Another interesting article is titled Android users give malware apps permission to rob them, express shock at the results. That probably fits about 95% of all real-world cases …

Here in Germany, the publisher Heise is counted a big authority in IT and security. Their article FAQ: Android und Sicherheit, dated December 2012 (c't 17/12) deals with this en detail, and sums it up, it's easily managable. Let me translate rawly: "Vendors of anti-virus software like to peddle with exaggerated horror statistics", and, "Currently almost all smartphone infections are caused by software the users installed actively themselves". They conclude: "The best protection is to use your common sense when installing new apps". I've said that already before they did … One last quote: "Do I need anti-virus software to be safe? – No. According to our assessment, the security gain by installing anti-virus software is too small to make up for the negative side-effects and the added nagging-factor, reduced battery runtime, and possible false-alerts."

And besides: The big-players in the AV business explicitly warn to install apps which ask for too many permissions – so especially pay attention to their numbers in below listings: Why such an anti-malware app needs to check for running apps (and might need to kill them) is quite clear (to find and get rid of the "bad guys"). Accessing the Internet for signature updates, check. Read SMS/MMS: yeah, for bad content, OK. Delete it as well if found, check. But what for does it have to send SMS, make phone calls, access the camera, read my bookmarks, read/write my contacts, call logs, calendars, access my precise location, and more? If you'd expect an explanation with the apps' descriptions: nope. Seeing those permissions (and their counts per app), according to the bold text above and even just to common sense, rather makes the impression of some malware camouflaging as security suite. That's like casting out the demons with the ruler of the demons. No, thanks: not on my devices. By the way: the "average Android App" requests about 7 Permissions. Less than 4% of the apps want more than 20. Just to give you a measurement what "too many permissions" could mean.

I don't think 99% plus users even get a benefit from [anti-virus]. There’s certainly no reason that they need to install something in addition to [the security we provide].
If I were to be in a line of work where I need that type of protection it would make sense for me to do that. [But] do I think the average user on Android needs to install [anti-virus]? Absolutely not.

„Anti-Virus for Android“ is like wearing the helmet of a medieval knight to play „Russian Roulette“. You wouldn’t need that helmet if you wouldn’t willingly put yourself at risk (using some common sense is more effective). As you do both, some bullets still penetrate the helmet. And what’s more, the helmet has spikes. Inside. Think of all those „false positives“ causing unnecessary panic, plus vulnerabilities introduced by their often massively high demand on powerful permissions, as well as the again risky modules they usually contain (see here). Remember who wants to tell you that you need that kind of software: its makers. And if you now ask the common question what good it does them if they give it away for free: they don’t. You pay with your data, with your privacy.

For those who still insist, here we go. Try to find one that doesn’t come with malware (in form of trackers) itself:

Anti-Malware

2023-01-21

Though many of these apps call themselves „Anti-Virus“, that's rather to „raise their importance“ and make you feel you really need their protection. So I've included them into „Anti-Malware“ instead. (Basically, any app calling itself „Anti-Virus“ or even „Best Anti-Virus“ sounds very suspicious to me ;) ) That said: Use at your own risk!

Exploit Detection/Protection

2023-01-21

Anti-Theft

2023-01-21

An overlap with the anti-malware section is unavoidable: full-fledged security suites try to cover (almost) everything …

Theft-Alert: Make noise when device is moved

2023-01-21

Find my device

2023-02-02

Apps dedicated to find lost devices. Certainly overlaps with anti-theft and anti-malware sections, where some apps might include this feature.

Anti-Others

2023-01-21

What didn't fit elsewhere

Further Readings:

Possibilities to check apps for security issues

Some websites offer such services:

2023-02-03