Is mobile anti-virus even necessary?

Experts disagree over whether or not there are any immediate threats to mobile devices that can be addressed with anti-virus software. Should you invest in AV for your smartphone or tablet?

It's no secret, or at least not anymore: people generally do not use any sort of anti-virus or malware protection on their mobile device. Recent IDC research has indicated that only 5 percent of all smartphones and tablets have some sort of security tools installed on them, raising the question of whether or not that kind of software is even necessary.

[Slideshow: 20 security and privacy apps for Androids and iPhones]

While it's true that this statistic included both enterprise and consumer audiences, they are often one in the same. According to Dionisio Zumerle, a principal research analyst at Gartner, BYOD adoption can range anywhere from 15 percent to upwards of 50 percent within a company depending on various factors like security requirements, form factor, industry, and risk appetite.

There's no question that a significant chunk of these devices that are free of any sort of anti-virus protection are being used in enterprise scenarios. The first question, then, is why that's the case.

Determining threat levels

In terms of a threat presence, there's no shortage of mobile malware floating around out there, at least according to anti-virus vendors. McAfee numbers, for example, indicate that 377,000 unique pieces of mobile malware were blocked in the month of July this year. But whether or not this kind of commercial software is even the right approach is a point of contention.

To continue reading this article register now

Make your voice heard. Share your experience in CSO's Security Priorities Study.