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Best Free Antivirus App for Android

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Introduction

Android's increasing popularity has led to increased security threats, ranging from common malware to advanced Phishing and ID theft techniques. In order to help Android users to deal with these issues, many security software companies have launched their own security apps, but paying nearly 30 bucks a year for a complete mobile security app doesn't sound like a good deal, especially when there's a wide choice of free security apps that will cover all your needs including a group of complete security suites with Anti-Theft capabilities.

First things first. Can my Android device get infected with a "virus"?

The short answer is NO. Because, you see, Android apps work under a “sandboxed” security scheme. This is a technique that places “virtual walls” between apps and the rest of the device’s software, so that the only way an app can share resources and data is by declaring permissions which restrict what actions an app can perform on your Android device, what files it can reach, and whether it can get access to your personal data or not.

Sandboxing limits the virus' capacity to infect your device, as it cannot access data from the OS and other parts of the device without a specific user-granted permission, thus annulling its capacity to replicate itself and spread from one device to another without the user knowing about it (that is what viruses do).

However, viruses are only a fraction of the vast variety of malware types out there such as trojans, spyware, exploits and fake apps, many of which do constitute a big threat to your data, your privacy and your Android device as well.

OK, I get it. But if Android cannot be infected with a “virus”, why do I need to install an “Antivirus”? 

Although Android cannot get infected with a virus because of the aforementioned reasons, it doesn’t mean it is an impregnable OS, but quite the opposite: its popularity has turned it into the crook's favorite target around the globe.

Although many security software companies have adhered to the “antivirus” term, they know they actually provide anti-malware apps bundled with privacy and anti-theft protection. We still wonder what was the reason that made these companies to insist on the “antivirus” term, because it may become rather misleading when it comes to Android, which works in a complete different way to Windows. In any case, some companies have preferred to label their respective apps as “mobile security” or "anti-malware" apps instead, which sound like more proper terms. Keep in mind, however, that security apps are only a part of the solution, as the main source of protection should come from your common sense.

To what extent is Android exposed to malware and other malicious threats?

Android device shipments are expected to top 1 billion this year (yes, a billion, you read it right) and there are currently more than 1.100.000 apps available in the Play Store, which generated 50 billion downloads in 2013 alone, therefore, it is reasonable to assume that there is plenty of potential malware* and other security threats designed to take advantage of careless Android users. It is there where security apps find their meaning.

(*) A security report from Kaspersky Labs made in february of 2014, has established that the number of malicious apps for Android has hit the 10 million mark.

A final word about security

We know we talked about permissions already, but we have to stress this point as much as we can: permissions are key to determine how secure an app is, both to your privacy and your data. We are telling you this because there are several ways to get apps 'for free' from alternative app markets and other unofficial sources. However, installing them exposes you to many privacy and security risks. Why? The reason is simple: while modified APKs keep the functionality from the original app, they mess with the permissions on a fairly extensive basis; many permissions are removed and many others are added. Sadly, chances are you do not know what those rogue permissions do until your are victim of ID theft and other felonies or misdemeanours against your privacy.

Downloading apps from the Play Store is the best bet, although is not a guarantee that the apps are 100% safe, as Google removes a lot of scam apps from the PlayStore periodically, therefore, a security app won't be much help, no matter how good it is, if you are the kind of person who installs anything just for the sake of it. Nevertheless, if you happen to be a very careful user with a good knowledge about Android (Linux), and you really know exactly what you are doing at all times, chances are you don't even have to install a security app at all.

Just remember: protecting your Android device and your data is your responsibility, yours only. Do not forget it.

Aspects to be considered when choosing a Security App for Android

After reckoning the security threats for Android, these are the aspects we consider when choosing and evaluating a security app:

  • Anti-malware engine: The app’s ability to detect, clean and delete malicious apps and scripts. As a parallel test for the real-time protection capabilities, the EICAR Antivirus Test was used.
  • Extra Protection: Some security apps may include a set of built-in extra protection against malicious websites (Secure Web Browsing), against spam or massive commercial SMSes (Spam filter) and against Potentially Unwanted Apps or PUAs (Application Protection). If one or more of these extra protection options are provided, they are evaluated individually to see how good they do their job.
  • Privacy Advisor: The privacy advisor function must have the ability of listing all the installed applications and classify their risk based on the permissions they require to run, as some of these may be considered as a privacy and/or security breach.
  • USSD Exploit Protection: USSD codes are special "dialed" commands that can be used to access a variety of phone functions. Some malicious sites use this USSD exploit to take advantage of certain devices' vulnerabilities through malicious links and QR codes. If this protection is included, we evaluate the app's ability to block this kind of attacks effectively.
  • Extra tools: Many apps include a set of extra tools to keep you protected. Some of them may include Call & SMS filtering, App Blocking and Contacts Back-up & Restore among others. Their performance and usefulness help us to evaluate the app as a whole.
  • System resources: No matter how the good a security app may perform, it cannot be considered a great app if it turns out to be a RAM hog or an adware flagship. After all, we do not want to kill apps just to keep our AV working or give away our expensive mobile data traffic to ads.

(!) Previously, battery consumption rates were part of this review, however, they had to be removed due to the fragmentation of the Android OS and the vast variety of devices (each one with a different capacity and processor speed) which provide too many variables to account for and could result in inappropriate or misleading info.

A note about the Anti-theft functions:

Google has launched its own anti-theft component named "Android Device Manager". It has the same functions any anti-theft tool has (locate, remote wipe, device lock) plus a bonus: you can change your device's unlock password remotely. If you have a device running Android 2.3 or later, chances are you have it already installed since it came bundled with a PlayStore update last year; if not, you can install it from the PlayStore like any other app. This security add-on is a very capable one because it integrates itself flawlessly with Android and it works with your existing PlayStore account.

We know Android Device Manager might not be everybody's cup of tea, and you can still opt for the Anti-theft module that most of the reviewed apps include, but using the former is a good way to save some RAM and storage space. Another additional benefit is that there is no need to register to a new service, therefore you will avoid providing your personal data to other companies**.

(**) As if giving it to Google was not bad enough already. ;-)

Apps Evaluation

Of all the apps that exist to analyze our phones, many have a lot of extras. They do a good job most of the time, but the way they are implemented can make the protection of your device more puzzling. That aspect can be solved with CM Security, a relatively new malware detection app for Android that comes from the same creators of the famous CleanMaster App. The app itself is as simple as you can get, while providing a great level of protection.

The main user interface of CM Security is not exactly surprising, but still enjoyable in its own way and looks quite clean. It won't add an icon in the notification bar, but will change the color of the interface depending on the status of your device. The main screen basically consists of a big button in the center and a small menu button in the top-right corner. A tap on the central button will start scanning the device for any threat, either in the form of a malicious application, the current settings of your system or any SMSes that may be listed as Phishing.

Once the scan process is finished, (which takes less than a minute in most cases) the app will list what kind of threats and vulnerabilities require attention and will offer to solve them, either one at a time or all at once. That is the basic function CM Security provides, but it also offers some other features such as a Privacy Advisor and a Secure Browsing option that works with most of the existing browsers.

If you want to add an extra layer of security to your device, there is an option to schedule scans (located within the settings menu) which can be set to daily, weekly or monthly scans. But that is not all: we can also analyze the entire SD in search of any kind of suspicious files, not just apps. A fast scan feature for the SD Card is also available, however, if you need a comprehensive SD Card scan, make sure you disable the fast scan option at least for the first-time scan, that way you will be sure no malicious file gets into your device. In any case, you can further reduce the time a scan takes by excluding the apps you trust from future scans. CM Security has also a bundled Call Filtering option; yeah, we know that has little to do with a security application like this, but if you want to increase the security of your phone, restricting incoming calls from those annoying marketers and problematic people is a good idea and it is useful preventing scams, too.

There is a free add-on you can download to clean up all kind of junk files from your device and claim some of your storage space. Considering the add-on comes from CleanMaster, you know the grade of cleaning it can perform.

CM Security came as a surprise, and a very good one. The anti-malware engine works really well and its database is updated periodically, so there is little chance some malware will get into your device. The app has all the essential features every anti-malware app should have, and it packs them in a small a package. The app is a 2.8 MB download and takes about 4.40 MB once installed. The RAM usage while working in the background is between 6 to 9 MB, and up to 14 MB while performing a full system scan, which is great news for users with low RAM. CM Security is a great security app the way it is now, and we like that. No catches, no ads and 100% free. Let’s hope its developers keep it that way.


Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is one of the most used programs in Windows, and its developers decided to release a version of their program for Android in order to help users to protect their mobile devices the same way they protect their desktop systems and that is how Malwarebytes Anti-Malware for mobile was born. It is a clever way to expand the product to new platforms, too.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is a 100% free application that will allow you to keep your devices clean and safe, preventing any malware from being installed. The app can scan, detect and remove all malware in the system, protect the access to your personal data, find vulnerabilities in the system settings and offer solutions to fix them, identify and inform about the permissions all the installed apps need and close possible security holes. If the app is consuming too many resources, you can enable or disable certain features of the system for a lighter operation.

After you have installed the app, using it is very simple. The main screen has 3 buttons: Scan Now, App Manager and Privacy Manager. If you select "Scan Now ", the app will automatically scan every single app we have installed in our system. After a while, it will display a notice indicating whether your device is clean or infected by malware. Using the "Application Manager" section, we can see all the installed applications. From there, you can check what apps are running and then you can close them manually if needed, if not, you can just view the application information.

The "Privacy Manager" is the most interesting section; from this we can see the permissions each app needs based on different categories. We can easily spot those apps that are allowed to access our data, read our contacts, take pictures, share our location or send anonymous statistics. At the top of that menu, there is button labeled "security audit" that will analyze your system for bugs and security holes. If we tap on it, it will show a summary of the existing bugs and security holes. Another tap on each issue will bring the solutions list, so we can find the best way to fix it. Scheduled tasks are available too, with daily or weekly frecuencies, You can even choose the specific day and hour when this task will be executed.

There is no doubt Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is a very easy to use app, and will make your device safer. It will work silently in the background with a RAM usage between 12~17 MB and ~23 MB during a complete scan.

Truth is Malwarebytes Anti-Malware could easily be our top-pick for this category, but there are two aspects that work against it. First, its continuous search for updates drains the battery faster than other apps as there are only 3 options to set the updates: each hour, every 3 hours or 6 hours. The only way of avoiding them is by turning off the real-time protection, which renders the logic of having an anti-malware app completely useless. Sure, you could turn off your internet connection as a workaround, but if you depend on your e-mail or instant messaging apps, that is not an option. Secondly, as good as having hourly malware definitions updates is, searching for them in such short time span seems a bit overkill, unless you install a lot apps and stuff from dubious sites every single hour. However, if you have a device with a really good battery and you enjoy living on constant peril by exposing your device to malicious apps and other threats round the clock, then Malwarebytes Anti-Malware will save the day.  


Our former favorite security app, avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus has seen much comings and goings during these last months. First, it luckily recovered some ground in terms of malware detection capabilities, but then it turned itself into a fremium app which needs in-app purchases if you want to use the full array of features it includes.

Avast! adds an icon in the notification tray, you can disable it, but doing that will affect the real-time protection. You can schedule automatic scans for the apps, the SD Card or both. The Privacy Advisor checks the permissions every app needs and lists the potential privacy issues they may have, whilst the Applications Management acts as a RAM monitoring and task killing tool. The Network Meter can monitor all your data traffic (WiFi, 3G and Roaming) and you can check each app's traffic under every network by selecting the corresponding tab.

Avast! Mobile Security Main UI

Avast! includes a full set of protection shields grouped under the "Shield Control" menu and it should protected you from all fronts. The Web Shield will block any infected URL it may find; the Message Shield will filter all unwanted SMSes and the Application Shield will keep PUAs at bay. The SMS & Call Filtering can be set up to block outgoing and incoming calls and you can add them to a group or groups and add specific days and hours to block them. Additionally, the included USSD protection will keep your dialer safe from exploits.

The included Firewall allows you to disable Internet access to any kind of network (WiFi, 3G and Roaming). That way you can avoid expensive roaming connection fares, block specific apps from going online and keep hackers away. Not so good, however, is that you need a rooted device to make it work.

As for the Anti-theft module, Avast's latest versions have turned it into an optional component. There are two versions: One for rooted devices and the other for non-rooted ones. Non-rooted devices can benefit from some Anti-theft components such as the Stealth Mode (it disguises and hides the Anti-theft component from unauthorized access) and a very complete list of SMS commands to trigger special actions such as alarms, device locking, remote wiping and geo-location. Rooted devices will have additional options such as Self-Protection (app uninstalling prevention and USB disabling) and Remote Settings Change. Avast! also has a fully operational online service (you need a free Avast! account) from which you can check and change your device status (Secured or Lost), locate it, send web commands and manage the Anti-Theft settings. Sadly, features such as the app-locking, the anti-theft extras and the adware detecting capabilites are now limited to the full (paid) version.

(!) The two versions of the Anti-theft component are available for free at the PlayStore, but they still need an avast account to work. The application locking feature is limited to 2 apps.

Avast! has improved the malware detection rates and most of the problems from previous versions have faded away. The app has also reduced its installation size, that now takes ~12 MB, whereas the previous versions took ~25 MB. The RAM usage remains almost the same, though, with ~30 MB at peak demand and 13~19 MB while idle, but you can still disable some features to save some RAM. We know the need of a rooted device for the Firewall and the most advanced Anti-theft options might pose a problem for new and inexperienced users, but that is a small price to pay for the kind of protection Avast! Mobile Security provides.


Developed by a well-known company, Comodo Mobile Security has its own share of characteristics starting with an awesome anti-malware plus some handy utilities that should help protecting your privacy, your data and your device itself. Furthermore, it is one of the very few 100% free security apps that remain out there.

After the install, Comodo will check for updates automatically, though it will need your confirmation to proceed. As with other apps, Comodo adds an icon in the notifications tray but disabling it won't cause any consequences. After everything is set, you can tap on the Health Check button in the main screen to check you device. Once the scan is finished the app will list the results under three categories: Dangerous, Pending and Secure, and it will add a brief description of the respective issues (if found). You can also schedule scan tasks, but you cannot choose specific locations.

Comodo has also included some useful tools besides the obvious anti-malware. The Process Manager is a redesigned task killer that shows the current RAM usage and lists all the running processes. The Traffic Monitoring and the Call & SMS Blocking tools will do what their name suggests. With the Private Space you can classify contacts or single phone numbers as “private”, so you have to write a password first to make / receive a call and send / receive SMSes. The Software Manager is split into My Software (it lists all the installed apps, the available space and lets you uninstall the programs) and the App Protector, which locks the access to any app(s) you choose with a password. You can use the Backup Tool to keep a copy of your contacts, SMSes, apps and private space in your SD Card. Lastly, Comodo has a Firewall tool aimed at blocking any app you want, although it lacks specific network blocking options (Wi-Fi, 3G) and it needs a rooted device to work. As for the USSD protection, the included tool worked seamesly with the dialer.

The improved Anti-theft feature mixes both online (Google Maps) and offline (SMSes) options and the 3-step Anti-theft Setup Wizard will guide you throughout the process. Once configured, you can use SMSes to send the location of your phone to another one (Remote locate), notify a friend’s number in case your SIM gets changed (SIM Change Alerts), trigger an alarm (works even when in silent mode) and block your phone remotely (Remote Device Lock). You can also erase any important data remotely (Remote Device Wipe). Comodo has also included a SMS command that will activate your phone's camera and will take a picture of its current 'possessor' and send it to your mail using the SMTP protocol. On the downside, Comodo does not act as "device administrator", which limits its capacity to enforce its device protection features.

Comodo has finally improved the anti-malware engine, which proved good, and the RAM usage peaked at 20 MB while performing a full system scan, but it kept a healthy 5~10 MB while idle. Even though all these changes and additions are not bad at all, we would like Comodo to work as a Device Administrator in order to strenghten its anti-theft module. That, and addition of a 3G / Wi-Fi specific blocking option for the firewall along with a secure web browsing option, would definitely make it a top pick.


Lookout Security & Antivirus is a true veteran because it is one of the first security and anti-malware app developed for the Android platform and therefore has a lot of experience concerning mobile security.

After its installation, the app will scan all the programs installed on your device automatically in order to protect your device and beloved data from malicious apps, spyware or other potential malware. It also does an automatic scan whenever you try to install a new app or update an already existing one. In addition, you can schedule a scan of the apps on your device at a frequency, day and/or time slot to your liking but you can't choose specific locations or directories, so you have to stick to the app's default options.

As a bonus feature, Lookout includes a phone-locator feature (labeled as Missing Device)  that allows you to locate your missing and beloved phone using Google maps even with the GPS turned off. You can create a free account at myLookout.com and use your login to locate your phone using a browser, though it does not offer any offline recovery option (such as SMSes) or a SIM change alert, for that matter.

Back to the account options, you can use it to back up your current contacts in myLookout.com and restore them to your phone or any other Android device you possess in case you have more than one. Moreover, Lookout will check if your contacts backup is properly updated whenever you add, delete or update a contact, which proved to be a really easy and handy feature to keep your contacts info well protected, updated and with easy access.

Lookout Mobile Security works flawlessly when it comes to malware detection and cleaning since no malware that dared to get into the phone succeeded and the included USSD protection worked fine. Although the current version boasts a new eye-candy UI coupled with some battery and stability enhancements, the Anti-theft component is the one that has seen some major improvements thanks to the Signal Flare (sends your device's location before its battery runs out) and the Lock Cam feature (it takes a picture with your frontal camera and sends it to your email after 5 failed attempts to unlock your device). As for the RAM usage, it peaked at 32 MB at some point, whereas 12~22 MB are the average while idle. Sadly, key features like Safe Browsing, the Privacy Advisor and the Remote Lock & Wipe are still only available to the Premium (paid) version, although you can have them as 14-day trial versions in case you want to give them a try.

Lookout Mobile Security is definitely a great anti-malware app with decent Anti-theft capabilities. However, we still believe that the app's current strategy seems rather odd, as some free security apps are providing malware detection rates equal to or higher than Lookout's along with safe browsing, privacy tools and remote lock & wipe options for free. Anyway, Lookout does not seem to care about that and keeps on trying to overcome them by selling you those services at premium prices. That is a reminder that, though effective, Lookout is still only a feature-limited security app which, unsurprisingly, is starting to lag behind some real good contenders who offer their security apps at no cost.


Sophos Free Antivirus & Security is the result of the experienced minds from the labs of the same name, and we must say they have bested any previous version with this new one. It has a minimalist UI and is not as open as the other apps, but gets the job done.

Once installed, Sophos will show you its improved minimalist-style home screen composed by 6 categories: Scanner, Loss & Theft, Spam Protection, Privacy Advisor, Security Advisor and the App Protection.

You can use the scanner settings to schedule periodic scans, look for unwanted apps (or PUAs, as Sophos calls them), include or exclude system apps from the scanning process, enable or disable the “On install Scan” (scans the app during its installation). It can even scan APKs obtained from any source such as e-mail attachments or web pages.  You can also enable or disable the “Monitor SD Card” option by which Sophos will monitor any writes to the SD Card and USB device (USB OTG) automatically as soon as you plug it. Finally, you can activate the “Cloud Scan Mode” and set it to “Always”, “Not While Roaming” and “WiFi only” to use the Sophos cloud infrastructure to get the latest data on Android malware. The "Malicious Website Protection" option will warn you of any blacklisted site it finds.

The Loss & Theft feature is a pretty good SMS-based tool; to enable it you must configure all the required items (7 in total) first. Setting them up is a simple task and the app itself will help you throughout the process. Once set, you can select the Loss & Theft features you want to enable such as Alarm, Locate / Locate at Low Battery, (the device sends its location back to you), Lock (blocks your device), SIM change (sends SMSes to selected numbers from the new SIM), Unlock, Secure Wipe and Unprotect (it deactivates the Anti-theft).

(!) In order to improve security and strengthen the app against potential attacks from malicious users, Sophos has released a small (85 KB) free add-on called "Security & Antivirus Guard" which acts as an additional Device Administrator and ensures the app never gets terminated and restarts itself immediately if needed.

The Security Advisor will scan for any unsecure settings your device may have and will advice you accordingly. The Privacy Advisor, on the other hand, scans and lists all the installed apps and categorizes them under 3 categories: apps that may cause costs, apps that may harm your privacy and apps that may access the internet. You can sort the categories to your own needs using the icons at the bottom. The Spam Protection is a very simple yet effective Call & SMS filter (it works great) and the recently added App Protection will lock any app you want with an alphanumeric password.

Sophos' scan engine works fine even with the Cloud Scan option disabled and there is a neat USSD protection along with an effective secure web browsing feature. The main downside of Sophos, however, lies within the RAM usage, which has increased when compared to previous versions: it peaked at 22 MB and ~16 MB while idle; it also needs around 22 MB of internal space to be installed. Although we wish Sophos Security & Antivirus was not as big and demanding as it is now, it is still an awesome 100% free security app with great anti-malware capabilities and a very good set of tools such as the Anti-theft and the App Protection.


Another dethroned top-pick, 360 Security by Qihoo 360 Software, is still a capable app that goes beyond the common anti-malware strategy by adding hotfixes to certain security issues. Sadly, some of the latest changes in the app have increased the number of required permissions to an intrusive level, which definitely affects the app's reputation.

360's interface is user friendly, with gorgeous looks, while keeping it as simple as it can be. We never knew what to expect for when we installed 360 Mobile Security for the first time, although we must say it surprised us in a good manner when, in addition to malware, it also detected and offered us to patch a series of specific Android vulnerabilities that neither Avast, TrustGo nor Lookout (among other major anti-malware players) ever considered.

That is one of the most innovative features any security app has included so far, as there’s no need to wait for firmware updates from the manufacturer to patch our device’s vulnerabilities or seek protection by installing third-party ROMs. There is a trick regarding 360's ability to patch the vulnerabilities, though: in order to keep your phone safe, you must keep the 360 Mobile Security installed; should you ever want to uninstall it, you will lose all the "patches" it had ever installed on your device.

In the event that you need to change the behavior of 360 Mobile Security, just swipe the main UI to the left and tap on the small gear-like icon. There, you can enable and disable the Auto Updates, the Auto Start, the language and the notification tray, which includes shortcuts for the System Cleanup, the alarm, the recent apps and a flashlight toggle.

(!) If you do not feel confident about providing anonymous statistics regarding 360's usage, make sure you disable the Customer Experience Improvement Program option.

360 Mobile Security also packs some goodies such as a Privacy Advisor, a System Cleanup Tool and a very useful “Floating Window” as 360 describes it. The first one will list all the installed apps under 7 permission-based categories whilst the second one will kill any app you choose and it will also clean private data from the system’s history. The floating window is a small but omnipresent floating shortcut that can be placed on the sides of the screen. When tapped on, it shows all apps currently running, but you can add toggles for Wi-Fi, Mobile Data, Bluetooth, GPS and Screen Brightness among others. If you feel like the floating window is causing you some problems, you can disable it or ask 360 to show it only in the launcher screen. The latest version also includes a Vault, a Call & SMS filtering feature and a Junk Cleaner.

Even though it lacks things such as an Anti-theft or a Firewall, 360's design and features compensate that loss. It consumed about 6~8 MB of RAM while idle, and it peaked at 19 MB while performing a scan in a heavily loaded device. As a security app, it packs advanced features such as the advanced system vulnerabilities fixing and a very good malware detection engine. It is a pity the guys at Qihoo have meesed up the app with intrussive permissions in recent versions and the recent introduction of 360 Mobile Safe (which works on a very similar way to 360) only brings more confussion, and that's definitely something a lot of users won't like.

Other reviewed Security Apps:

Bitdefender Antivirus Free offers optimal protection against malware for your Android device. The scanning engine is good but cloud based, which means you will need an internet connection to make it work effectively. It will scan new apps as soon as they are installed and will consume less resources than other apps. Once installed, it will work on its own without any additional configuration, making it and an ideal antimalware app for the less experienced users. Sadly, the lack of any advanced options might pose a problem for intermediate and advanced users who like to tweak settings and be in control all the time.

AVG Anti-Virus Free has a decent malware detection engine that will detect and block most of the malware that tries to get into your phone or tablet (there are dedicated versions for both kind of devices). The not-so-good part is that it could flag some legit apps and functions (such as root) as Potentially Unwanted Apps, which is not good at all and can lead you to uninstall perfectly good apps. Its secure web surfing protection does a good job and provides a hassle-free browsing experience. Sadly, the best tools are just 14-day trial versions. It also lacks protection against USSD attacks and the Anti-Theft capabilities are limited to online options.

Dr. Web Light v.7 is not a complete security suite (it lacks Anti-theft and Privacy features) but it does not promote itself as such. It is not a mediocre anti-malware app either, in fact, its detection rates are very good and the RAM usage levels are below the average. The scan speeds are fast even with the "Files on Archives" option enabled. To avoid further confussion, you must know there are 2 different versions available: v.7 (free, but will show ads in the notification bar) and v.9 (just a limited 14-day trial). If all you need is a basic and effective protection against malware and you can live without the Anti-theft and other extras, then Dr. Web Antivirus Light v.7 is a good choice.

 TrendMicro Mobile Security & Antivirus has a sleek UI and a good anti-malware engine. It also includes a free privacy scanner for Facebook (it looks for unsecure settings on your account), 50 MB of cloud storage for data backup and that is where the free goodies end. Truth is TrendMicro is not an actual free security app because most of the key security functions (Secure Web Surfing, Device location, Anti-theft, Privacy Scanner, Call & SMS filtering) are available only in the paid version or available as a 30-day trial. In simple words, TrendMicro is worth installing only if basic protection against malware is what you are looking for.

TrustGo Antivirus & Mobile Security provides a good performance when it comes to malware detection. It also has a good Secure Web Surfing filter against malicious sites. Although it was our top-pick for this category some time ago, its latest changes introduced some permissions that required the camera to -supposedly- spot thieves and then mail it to you, but there was not such an option visible within the app and the picture never arrived to our mail. Besides, the 'Hot Apps' section recommended a lot of paid and ad-supported apps that other apps considered malware. Although good, TrustGo's methods to keep the app free are not the best ones.

 NQ Mobile Security & Antivirus has a fancy interface and it appears to be free. Unfortunately, at some point it will try to charge you for updating the virus definitions and will flag your phone as "at risk" unless you have the premium (paid) features enabled. It has good detection rates and a cloud-based anti-malware engine as a support component for the real-time protection. It is a pity it losses its appeal and capacity to convince the user to keep it installed due to its deceitful strategy to generate income.

Reviewed, but not recommended Security Apps:

VirusFighter Antivirus Free: This app is promoted as "free" but is just a glorified demo. The interface and menus use a simple though effective interface, which is not bad; however, most of the functions are limited or reserved for the Pro (paid) version. The app itself is small, but the RAM usage levels vary a lot without an apparent reason. It also failed to detect a lot of well-known malicious files, but due to its pretty and usable interface hundreds of users seem to like it.

Android Antivirus: Based on the name this app has, you would think it is the perfect companion for your device. Truth is that it is not. While the interface is clean and makes the app look good, the detection rates are not; only the most common threats are detected. Some of the permissions the app needs (full network access, read phone status and identity, find accounts on the device) have no reason to be there either.

Antivirus Free: It used to be an independent app but it has become a NQ Labs extension (you can read "NQ Antivirus Free" in the main screen). The virus definitions updates are free only during the first month; if you have an active internet connection it will show annoying full-screen ads every now and then and after performing a scan task. Do not let its 4.4 rating (!?) fool you, as it has poor detection rates and  needs quite a lot of permissions for a merely basic anti-malware app. Definitely an app you should avoid.

 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

CM (CleanMaster) Security
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Offers an effective and complete security suite in a small package. Full SD Card scan option. Malware scan not limited to APKs. Very RAM friendly. Small installation size.
The junk cleaner requires and additional download.
1.2.0
2.8 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Android 2.2 & Up
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very easy to use. Fast and effective anti-malware engine. Useful set of privacy tools.
Not battery friendly. The update check scheme can be a bit overkill for most users.
1.03.0.5000
6.9 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Android 2.3 & Up
avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Good anti-malware engine bundled with a complete set of protection tools. Advanced Anti-Theft options with SMS and Online commands to find your phone.
The Anti-Theft's most advanced features and the Firewall need a rooted device to work. Starting from version 3.0 it is a feature-limited freeeware. More demanding than previous versions on older phones.
3.0.7387
7.3 MB
Feature limited freeware
Android 2.1 & Up

Advanced features require a rooted phone.
Anti-theft requires and active internet connection for the first setup and whenever it gets updated.
Avast! free account is necessary to use the online Anti-theft tool.
Some of the best goodies are limited to the paid version.

Comodo Mobile Security
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Awesome anti-malware engine. Simple and clean interface. Useful Anti-theft features. Great personal data backup to SD Card feature. Good and useful set of tools.
Lacks a web protection option. Does not act as Device Administrator. No specific blocking for WiFI, 3G or Roaming.
https://m.comodo.com/
2.4.5
8.3 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Android 2.2 and Up

Private Space must be checked and cleaned to avoid problems in case you want to uninstall Comodo Mobile Security.

Lookout Security & Antivirus
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Great and fast protection against malware. Contacts Data Backup & Restore and Find My Phone functions included in the package. Interesting Anti-Theft component.
Advanced features such as Safe Browsing, Remote Lock & Wipe and the Privacy Advisor are available only in the paid version.
https://www.mylookout.com/
Varies with device - 8.xx
Around 7 MB
Feature limited freeware
Android 2.1 & Up (also available for iOS)

Find my phone requires a free account at mylookout.com
Advanced back-up options only available for the Premium (paid) version.

Sophos Free Security & Antivirus
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Simple though functional main UI. Good anti-malware engine with fast scan times. Effective SMS-based Anti-theft. Comprehensive set of features which increase the app's value as a whole.
Big installation size. Unclear virus definition update strategy. RAM usage has increased when compared to previous versions. It seems to work best when connected permanently to the internet with the Cloud Scan option enabled.
3.1.1245
10 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Android 2.3.3 & Up

The Cloud Scan requires an internet connection while performing any task(s).

360 Security
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Sleek design with a simple user interface. Fast and lightweight anti-malware engine. Interesting set of goodies.
Intrussive new set of permissions. Does not include anti-theft capabilities.
v1.7.5
7 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Android 2.2 & Up (also available for iOS)

 
Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Victor Laurie. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

 
Tags

best free antivirus for Android, best free mobile antivirus, top free mobile anti-virus, best free anti-virus for mobile device, free anti-malware for smart phones

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Comments

by rickybobby on 18. July 2014 - 7:44  (117407)

Despite all the effort made to write this article, Android's security engineer seems to think otherwise calling antivirus apps 'pointless'.

http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/and...

I don't claim the present review is pointless, I'm just sharing something an official android chief at google just said.

by saurabh singh on 26. May 2014 - 21:02  (116440)

It is good

by IO.Hazard on 21. May 2014 - 3:46  (116316)

Hi,

CM security was updated yesterday to v1.3.1. The app itself is still good, but the RAM usage levels have skyrocketed as some users below reported weeks ago. We were hoping a new version to confirm if that increase was due to a bug or something similar, sadly that's not the case.

In normal mode (one single process on the background) the RAM levels were within the 38 to 45 MB range. Add about 10 MB to that while updating (2nd process) but if you enable the Anti-theft the picture gets worse... 70 to 90 MB of RAM!

I never used an app with such a high demand for RAM. Not good at all. I'm looking for alternatives for the next review, as CM Security cannot be considered a top app nor user-friendly with those high RAM requirements.

I just opened a new thread in our forum regarding this issue. Feel free to post your comments and thoughts about this. Your feedback would help a lot.

by camguy on 22. June 2014 - 15:47  (116872)

just downloaded and installed CM Security ver 1.5.0.1586 this morning. It is using 9MB with one process and one service in normal standby mode.When scanning peaked at 42mb, but dropped back to 9MB when scan finished.

by disownedlady66 on 10. May 2014 - 15:09  (116143)

So far,so good,just join and still checking this site out..

by stevej on 4. May 2014 - 2:15  (116026)

trustgo was able to detect 2 ad ware apps that CM Did not.

by rickybobby on 10. May 2014 - 21:05  (116145)

I had that issue with TrustGO months ago. The weird thing is no other app detected the same, even after a scan with VirusTotal. However, VirusTotal did detect a pair of ad-ware based apps that TrustGo had no idea of :P.

I decided to test CM and it was fine until the last update. Guess what? The memory footprint has skyrocketed! I'm talking about 80 MB of RAM. What gives? I disabled the anti theft and it went down to 45 MB, but I found it too high anyway, so I uninstalled it.

Companies think all of us have phones with 2GB or more of RAM. I'm not buying that scheme. I can live far better by installing other free apps that are not so demanding.

by IO.Hazard on 17. May 2014 - 20:17  (116257)

Thanks for pointing that up. I noticed that increase in CM's RAM usage too. Not good. I will wait to see if this is a just a temporary thing (bug?) or a definitive major change.

Anyway, I don't see any advantage in using the included anti-theft as it increases the RAM usage levels and does not provide any major benefit than Google's device locator.

by danbest82 on 26. April 2014 - 17:23  (115901)

For me, CM security uses a lot of RAM all the time(runs 2 processes) and quite a bit of CPU when receiving SMS (what I noticed anyway). Unfortunately my phone isn't super high end and can't afford extra use of resources. Just figured I'd let people know so they are prepared. If others have better luck, let me know.

by IO.Hazard on 21. May 2014 - 4:24  (116320)

Many thanks for your early warning. I know it's been almost a month since you post and my response, but I had hoped the developers would fix that high demand for RAM in future versions.
Please, refer to my latest post for specific info about the RAM requirements as well as potential alternatives for the next review in our forum.
Thanks.

by IO.Hazard on 27. April 2014 - 0:23  (115908)

The only time CM Security opens a second process is while downloading definitions updates. The rest of the time it only uses a single process, even with the 'safe browsing' option enabled. Have you installed another anti-malware app besides CMS? That could create some conflicts and cause your RAM usage to increase a lot.

You don't need a high end phone to run CMS. I've seen it running on 'old' phones with Android 4.0.4 and 512MB of RAM. However, if you are using JellyBean 4.1 or up, things can be totally different as the OS consumes a lot of RAM itself, leaving too little for third party apps. JellyBean needs a device with 768MB of RAM at least to run decently, according to Google.

Sadly, many manufacturers make devices with 512MB of RAM with JellyBean installed on them. That's their a way to create 'low-budget' phones which, in the end, won't perform as good as you would like to.

**MAY 9th UPDATE** CM's latest version has confirmed our previous concern. Its RAM usage has increased more than twice, and enabling the bundled Anti-theft only makes it worse. Will the next update fix that? We sincerely hope so.

by Spy on 26. April 2014 - 14:46  (115899)

Well, 360 security do include anti-theft option. And according to AV-test in March 2014 the 360 security's protection is given full rating.

by IO.Hazard on 27. April 2014 - 0:05  (115907)

If you've read the intro, you should have noticed we don't consider the anti-theft as 'a must', and we explained why.

We never said 360 was a bad app. Its only problem is it includes too many permissions, even for a security app. Its installation size has grown too, as it includes more features than previous versions, which is not bad, but could be too much for users who only want anti-malware protection.

by Spy on 11. June 2014 - 9:24  (116729)

Without any offense, its clearly written above in the article as: "... Even though it lacks things such as an Anti-theft or a Firewall, 360's design and features compensate that loss...."

I guess you should read it well ;)

I tested it, its firewall works, as well as its anti-theft.

I just said it does not lack anti-theft.

by rickybobby on 28. April 2014 - 18:23  (115937)

Spy probably meant the newest version of 360MS now includes an anti-theft component. I read the intro and the explanation about the anti-theft seems logical.

Nonetheless, removing 360MS from the top was a surprise to me, as it worked like charm for me. I read the comments below as well as some posts in the forum that attack the app with no reason, basing their comments on problems some users had with old DESKTOP versions of 360. I read the permissions and they look legit for me, especially when you consider the things 360MS can do.

The size of this app has increased, that's true, but I keep using it and has protected me from various kinds of malware since I installed it based on your initial suggestion. I know creating lists like this demand time and effort, and I thank you for that, but next time try following your knowledge and expertise instead of listening to trolls or people who like to bash products they don't like. CMSecurity looks good and I will give it a try, eventually, maybe when I get tired of my current security app.

Anyway, you deserve cheers for a job well done. Thank you.

by IO.Hazard on 8. April 2014 - 4:36  (115557)

Hi,

As you can see, the review has finally been updated. It took more time than expected, but Android apps are in constant change.

A pair of new apps has been added, other apps were updated with relevant info about their latest changes, while others are gone for good.

Additionally, I would like to thank the readers for their useful comments, which provided important info and helped me a lot when writing the review.

I hope this updated review proves useful and you enjoy reading it.

Regards.

by MidnightCowboy on 8. April 2014 - 4:50  (115558)

Good job - thanks for the update. :) MC - Site Manager.

by IO.Hazard on 8. April 2014 - 5:35  (115560)

It was my pleasure, MC. Let's hope our readers like it as you do. :D

by EricCRZ on 8. April 2014 - 12:44  (115566)

Many thanks for the updated review! Something I always look forward to reading.

I downloaded and running CM Security which I find is a great product. I use it in combination with Mr. Number for blocking Calls and texts and AppLock to protect uninstallation, Settings and PlayStore and seems to all be working seamlessly. CM Security will be having an anti-theft which simply integrates with your Android Device Manager. It's currently in beta.

On a similar note. Comodo Mobile security since version 3.4.5 released 02nd March does act as Device Administrator and there were a large number of fixes to the Optimizer (Cache cleaner/task killer). CMS's built-in App Locker under the Private Space now allows you to lock CMS itself along with settings/playstore and any other app you choose. I'd use it myself but my phone has a very low resolution and therefore not fully compatible but I downloaded via the forum download and can confirm all the features work though it's not scanning my full SD Card on my device only scanning SDcard0 and not the External Card.

I did try Malwarebytes and may come back to it when it develops further.

Thanks again for reviewing these products!

E

by avtar on 4. April 2014 - 16:08  (115495)

Installed 360 Mobile Security as it was recommended here but noticed it needed permissions that made me feel uncomfortable eg reading my emails and sending emails/texts but installed anyway as it had been recommended by Gizmo. Came back and read all these comments and decided to uninstall it whereupon my browser (Chrome) would only return results from ?baidoo in Chinese! Had to do a factory reset to fix it.

Downloaded TrustGo but this seemed to have similar permissions? Which security app can run without these sorts of permissions?

by naren on 8. March 2014 - 1:57  (114880)

Just for the info,
Anti-Theft is now added in 360 Security.
Now I am confused with the company coz 2 softwares 360 Security & 360 Mobile Safe both have same features??

by IO.Hazard on 8. March 2014 - 18:22  (114897)

You're definitely right. 360 mobile security and 360 mobile safe are almost identical. It is an odd move by Qihoo as it creates confusion amongst users. 360 software is moving in a strange direction and is raising some concerns regarding privacy, which is not good at all.

Perhaps it is time for a serious update to the review.

by EricCRZ on 4. April 2014 - 9:04  (115484)

Qihoo have recently done an update an in the What's New notes have provided a link to fully explain each of the permissions people have concerns over: http://goo.gl/3a2mCd I'm currently using Sophos but may end up switching to 360 eventually.

P.S. Also, I was looking at CM Security by KS Mobile https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cleanmaster.security which seems a very intriguing AV which also does well in the independant Av-Test.org results. Another one from China which has been around for awhile though it lacks anti-theft it's claims sound promising.

P.P.S. Has anyone else noticed the lack in web/facebook and twitter updates for Trustgo though they did update the app recently? Looks like everything's been left since the middle of last year but all still works and still performs well in the test results.

by IO.Hazard on 8. April 2014 - 5:31  (115559)

Interesting info EricCRZ. Thanks for sharing it with us.

I think you'll be glad to see the changes that were made to the review. Sadly for 360, there was too much oppostion to it because of its origins and its late response to our requirements about the premissions usage.

As far as I know, KS Mobile is headquartered in San Francisco, so its apps can be considered as "Made in the U.S.A.", not Chinese.

by Larrychamp on 25. February 2014 - 4:18  (114636)

360 Mobile Security PERMISSIONS requested that I allow it to send emails (to my contacts?) without my knowing. Doesn't that bother anyone else?

by ew on 5. March 2014 - 20:21  (114821)

I was glad to see this comment because my own response to seeing the permissions currently requested by this app was identical -- am I the only one bothered by this?

Please read the current permissions. They also allow access to confidential information, and other alarming things.

I was going to install untilI read the permissions. I can't see giving them.

I am wondering whether agreeing to initial permissions when installing an app allows automatic assent to any additional permissions later added by the developer?

It is ironic that installing antivirus etc apps requires the high level of trust involved in giving blanket permissions to their developers. After reading the permissions requested by 360mobile,, I searched "is Qihoo really legitimate?". Though I take the results of quick internet searches with a grain of salt, the results were not reassurring.

I'd appreciate seeing comments from someone at Gizmos, thanks.

by IO.Hazard on 9. March 2014 - 1:47  (114903)

Hi,

Let me clear some things up: There is no such thing as a permission that allows automatic assent to any additional permissions that could be added later by the developers; that is a big lie. The PlayStore always shows the permissions list every time you attempt to install a new app. If you are updating an app and it has added new permissions, the PlayStore will show a "NEW" tag next to them, so you can know what they are for. If you don't like the new permissions, you can keep the old version and cancel the update or uninstall the app altogether.

As for your search for 360 Mobile security, I found no harmful information and I saw that is recommended by a bunch of well-known sites. However, it is true that 360's apps should be more transparent and they could add a description of the permissions and what are they needed for, sadly they don't, so we are left alone trying to guess why are they needed and what exactly these permissions do.

I had to write this long answer because the information you wrote about the permissions is not accurate. We don't want to confuse our readers nor provide them with misleading statements.

If you have any additional questions or comments about this, please feel free to visit our forum.

Thanks.

by IO.Hazard on 2. March 2014 - 4:30  (114737)

Larrychamp,

Thanks for posting your thoughts about 360. Truth is this permission is new and was added in v1.6.5 on February 23rd. However, in order to be precise, the permission does not say "send e-mails"; it says "send messages". Now, coming back to the core of the matter, that permission is indeed a highly sensitive one, so I wrote an email to the guys at Qihoo regarding that matter but I haven't got a reply yet.

For the time being, I must advice against updating to the 1.6.5 version. Installing 360 Mobile Safe is not an option, as it requires the same *fishy* permission. At this point, my recommendation would be to install other apps such as Comodo, Avast! or Sophos, at least until we get a response from Qihoo.

by ew on 5. March 2014 - 20:24  (114822)

Please see my own comment in response to Larrychamp; I probably should have posted it here. Thanks.

by Prof. Jewell on 8. February 2014 - 2:32  (114308)

This is listed on "gf" but doesn't seem to be reviewed:

"VirusTotal *for Android* (492 KB) helps get your system and user apps in your device scanned by more than 40 antivirus vendors and flag any malicious apps. Tap a flagged app and you can view its detailed scan results from the vendors."

http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-android-apps.htm?page=0,6#Page...

Is this likely to happen soon?

P.S. Listing ones reviewed, but not recommended, is very useful. Thanks,