Best Android antivirus? The top 12 tools

There are plenty of antivirus tools for Android. Here's how the top 12 measure up in protection, usability and features.

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The following are the 12 best antivirus tools for Android, according to AV-TEST’s May 2018 evaluations of 20 Android security apps. (The AV-TEST Institute is a Germany-based independent service provider of IT security and antivirus research.) Each Android antivirus software app listed below received perfect protection and usability scores of 6.0. The apps are in alphabetical order.

Detection rates for all apps tested are in the range of 54.8 percent to 100 percent, with an average of 96.9 percent.

1. Alibaba Mobile Security 5.8

Like all the other top Android anti-malware tools, Alibaba Mobile Security detected all newly discovered malware and all other previously known malware. It checked all the boxes for usability and gave no false warnings. It has a good feature set including anti-theft, call blocking, message filtering, safe browsing, and an app lock. However, it lacks parental control, personal data backup, and encryption.

2. Avast Mobile Security 6.10

Avast Mobile Security 6.10 managed Android malware detection in real-time 100 percent of the time. It found 100 percent of the latest Android malware discovered during the previous four weeks. The app doesn’t negatively affect battery life or cause

the device to get sluggish during normal use. It registered zero false warnings during installation and use of legitimate apps from Google Play or third-party app stores.

Mobile Security’s safe browsing features help protect against phishing attacks and malicious websites, and it offers anti-theft features such as remote wipe. Additional features not evaluated by AV-TEST include an app lock, a privacy advisor, and wi-fi security.

3. AVG AntiVirus Free 6.9

AVG AntiVirus Free had a perfect 100 percent detection rate for real-time malware detection and a 100 percent detection rate for recently discovered malware. It gave no false warnings. It has a decent set of features including anti-theft, call blocking, an app lock, wi-fi security, and backup of personal data. However, it lacks a message filter, parental control, and encryption.

4. Avira Antivirus Security 5.2

Avira Antivirus Security scored high on both detection of Android malware in real time (99.7 percent) and detection of Android malware discovered in the last four weeks (99.9 percent). The app does not affect battery life or performance and gave no false warnings. Special features include identity safeguard, app lock, privacy advisor, and safe search. It does not supprt encryption or offer parental controls.

5. Bitdefender Mobile Security Version 3.3

Bitdefender Mobile Security’s Android malware detection in real-time is 100 percent, and it discovered the newest Android threats discovered in the last four weeks 100 percent of the time as well. For usability, the app gets big check marks for not

dragging down battery life or device speeds. AV-TEST found zero false warnings during installation/usage of legitimate apps from Google Play and third-party app stores.

Unlike some Android malware protection apps, Bitdefender’s Mobile Security offers anti-theft features, including remote lock, wipe, and locate, as well as safe web browsing and phishing protection. Like many other Android security tools, it doesn’t include message filtering or call blocking and doesn’t support all types of encryption. Additional features not evaluated include app lock and a privacy advisor.

6. G Data Internet Security Version 26.2

G Data’s Internet Security has more features than many of its other top-rated competitors. AV-TEST checked the boxes for remote lock, wipe, and locate; call

blocking; message filtering; safe browsing; parental control; and support for all encryption. The only ‘x’ the app received was for not enabling personal data to be saved to an SD card or cloud storage.

Otherwise, Internet Security’s real-time Android malware detection rate was 100 percent, while it detected threats discovered in the past four weeks 100 percent. The excellent usability score resulted from not negatively affecting battery life, dragging down device performance, or generating too much traffic. The app issued zero false warnings during installation and use of legitimate apps from Google Play and third-party app stores.

The AV-TEST Institute

7. Kaspersky Lab Internet Security Version 11.16 

Kaspersky Lab’s Android malware scanner caught the latest Android malware in real-time 99.9 percent of the time and the latest threats discovered over the prior month

100 percent of the time. The app’s perfect usability score results from not impacting battery life or slowing performance. The feature set is more robust than most, with remote locking, wiping and location; call blocking; message filtering; and safe browsing/anti-phishing protection—though G Data’s Internet Security product offers a few more features. Additional features not tested include privacy protection and anti-phishing protection for texts.

8. McAfee Mobile Security Version 4.9

McAfee Mobile Security Android malware scanner detected bugs in real-time 99.7 percent of the time, but caught malware discovered in the last four weeks 99.9 percent of the time.

As with all other apps in this roundup, usability was stellar. The app’s feature set is strong, including a full set of anti-theft tools, call blocking, safe browsing and phishing protection, and the ability to save personal data to an SD card or the cloud. Mobile Security doesn’t support all types of encryption, however, or text message filtering. Other features not tested include a battery optimizer, privacy, and app lock.

9. PSafe DFNDR 5.8

PSafe DFNDR did a flawless job of Android malware detection for threats discovered in the previous four weeks. For the latest threats discovered in real time, it also detected at a100 percent rate. DFNDR also earned high marks for not impacting battery life, slowing the device during normal use, or generating too much traffic on the device. It issued zero false warnings during installation and use of apps from Google Play or third-party app stores.

DFNDR offers safe browsing and protection from phishing as well as the ability to block calls from specific or unknown numbers. It also offers anti-theft features such as remote locking, wiping, or locating your device, according to AV-TEST.

10. Symantec Norton Mobile Security 4.1

Symantec Norton Mobile Security caught 100 percent of all Android malware, including those

discovered recently, with no false warnings. It has a good set of usability features, including safe browsing, personal data backup, anti-theft, and call blocking. Features not reviewed include an app advisor, wi-fi security, and an app lock.

11. Tencent WeSecure 1.4

With Tencent’s WeSecure, you won’t get anti-theft features (remote lock, wipe, and locate). AV-TEST didn’t list any additional noteworthy features that weren’t tested, but you’ll get call blocking, safe browsing/anti-phishing protection, and the ability to backup personal data to SD cards or the cloud. The app aced real-time detection of new malware, catching it 100 percent of the time, and it detected new malware reported in the previous four weeks 100 percent of the time. Usability was excellent, with no downsides for battery life or performance and no false warnings.

12. Trend Micro Mobile Security and Antivirus 9.3

Trend Micro’s Mobile Security and Antivirus checks most of the feature boxes: anti-theft, call blocking, text message filtering, safe browsing and anti-phishing protection,

and parental control. Plus, there are a privacy scanner, messenger protection, and network protection. The app achieved a 100 percent detection rate for new malware in real-time as well as for threats discovered in the past four months. Usability was excellent, too, with no drag on battery life or performance and zero false warnings.

The state of Android security

Research from the AV-TEST Institute shows that Android malware samples collected have increased sizably every year. In 2014, the total was more than 326 million. The next year, the malware tally reached more than 470 million. In 2016, AV-TEST recorded nearly 597.5 million samples—nearly double the amount from two years earlier.

The AV-TEST Institute

AV-TEST data shows steep growth of Android malware

By 2019, mobile malware will comprise about 33 percent of all malware reported in standard tests, up from 7.5 percent today, according to Gartner’s August 2017 “Market Guide for Mobile Threat Defense Solutions.” Though iOS devices aren’t immune from malware, “The mobile malware threat is primarily coming from Android,” said Dionisio Zumerle, research director at Gartner. The threat should be a concern for all companies with Android users, he said—especially those with large fleets of Android devices or that are in high-security verticals such as finance, healthcare, and government.

Android malware is getting more sophisticated, too. Consider DoubleLocker—Android ransomware that IT security firm ESET recently detected. DoubleLocker is capable of changing a device’s PIN, preventing users from accessing their devices. It can encrypt the data on the device. That’s a double whammy, the likes of which haven’t been seen before in the Android ecosystem, according to ESET.

The good news? “Android security is improving, and the diversity of security applications available for the platform is strong,” said Nick FitzGerald, senior research fellow at ESET. “That means there’s more than one set of hurdles the bad guys must clear to have a highly successful malware campaign.”

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