Best Android antivirus? The top 13 tools

There are plenty of antivirus tools for Android. Here's how the top 13 measure up in protection, usability and features.

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The following are the 13 best antivirus tools for Android, according to AV-TEST’s September 2018 evaluations of 20 Android security apps. (The AV-TEST Institute is a Germany-based independent service provider of IT security and antivirus research.) All but two of the 13 Android antivirus software app listed below received perfect protection and usability scores of 6.0. Two apps, Alibaba Mobile Security and F-Secure Safe, received 6.0 protection scores but 5.5 usability scores, while a third, Avira Antivirus Security, earned a 5.5 protection score and a 6 usability score. The apps are in alphabetical order.

Real-time detection rates for all apps tested ranged from a minimum of 64.5 percent to 100 percent, with an average of 97.8 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 during installation and usage of legitimate software from third-party app stores. The app gave one false warning during installation and usage of legitimate apps from the Google Play store.

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. Note: This app earned a 5.5 score for usability, slightly below the perfect 6.0 score it earned for protection.

2. Avast Mobile Security 6.11

Avast Mobile Security 6.11 managed Android malware detection in real-time 99.9 percent of the time. It found 99.8 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 and 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. The app also has a call blocker. Additional features not evaluated by AV-TEST include an app lock, a privacy advisor, and wi-fi security.

3. AVG AntiVirus Free 6.10

AVG AntiVirus Free 6.10 had a perfect 100 percent detection rate for real-time malware detection and a 99.8 percent detection rate for recently discovered malware. It gave no false warnings. The app has a decent set of features including anti-theft, remote wipe, call blocking, safe browsing, backup of personal data, app lock, wi-fi security, and privacy advisor. However, it lacks message filtering, parental controls, and encryption.

4. Avira Antivirus Security 5.3

Avira Antivirus Security scored 99.4 percent on both detection of Android malware in real time and detection of Android malware discovered in the last four weeks. The app doesn’t affect battery life or performance and gave no false warnings. Special features include identity safeguard, app lock, privacy advisor, and safe search. It doesn’t support encryption or offer parental controls. Note: This app earned a 5.5 protection score and a 6.0 usability score.

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, a privacy advisor, and VPN support.

6. F-Secure Safe 17.4

F-Secure Safe detected the latest Android malware in real-time 99.9 percent of the time and those discovered within four weeks 100 percent of the time. There’s no drain on battery life or performance and the app doesn’t generate too much traffic. False warnings during installation and use of legitimate apps from Google Play were zero, but the app gave one false warning during installation of use of a legit app from third-party stores. Features include anti-theft (remote lock, remote wipe, and locate); call blocking; safe browsing; parental control; and application privacy.

7. G Data Internet Security 26.4

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; and parental control. The only ‘x’ marks the app received were for not enabling personal data to be saved to an SD card or cloud storage and not support any kind of encryption.

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.

8. Kaspersky Lab Internet Security Version 11.17 

Kaspersky Lab’s Android malware scanner caught the latest Android malware in real-time 100 percent of the time and the latest threats discovered over the prior month 99.9 percent of the time. The app’s perfect usability score results from not impacting battery life, slowing performance or generating too much traffic. The feature set is more robust than most, with remote locking, wiping and location; call blocking; message filtering; and safe browsing/anti-phishing protection. Additional features not tested include privacy protection and anti-phishing protection for texts.

9. McAfee Mobile Security Version 5.0

McAfee Mobile Security Android malware scanner detected bugs in real-time 99.9 percent of the time, and caught malware discovered in the last four weeks 100 percent of the time. 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, parental control, and the ability to save personal data to an SD card or the cloud. Mobile Security doesn’t support all types of encryption, however. Other features not tested include safe wifi, privacy check, and app lock.

10. Sophos Mobile Security 8.5

Sophos Mobile Security detected new malware in real-time 100 percent of the time and within four weeks 99.9 percent of the time. The perfect usability score comes from not impacting batter life or performance or generating too much traffic. The app includes anti-theft, call blocking, message filtering, and safe browsing features, along with a privacy advisor, security advisor, app protection, authenticator, and a password safe.

11. Symantec Norton Mobile Security 4.3

Symantec Norton Mobile Security caught 100 percent of all Android malware, including those discovered recently and within four weeks, 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 a system advisor.

12. 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 99.8 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.

13. Trend Micro Mobile Security and Antivirus 9.5

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. You can back up personal data to an SD card or cloud storage, and any kind of encryption is supported. The app achieved a 100 percent detection rate for new malware in real-time as well as for threats discovered in the past four weeks. 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. And in 2018, we’re looking at 838.14 million.

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 continues to become stealthier and more complex, too. For example, in October 2018, it was discovered that malware authors had been sneaking mobile banking Trojans into the Google Play store that masqueraded as device boosters and cleaners, battery managers, and horoscope apps. “These remotely controlled Trojans are capable of dynamically targeting any apps found on the victim’s device with tailor-made phishing forms,” according to the IT security firm ESET’s We Live Security blog. “Aside from this, they can intercept and redirect text messages to bypass SMS-based two-factor-authentication, intercept call logs, and download and install other apps on the compromised device.” 

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.”