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.

These are the aspects we consider when choosing and evaluating a security app:

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Read also: Questions About Android Security at the end of this page.

 

Rated Products

CM Security AppLock AntiVirus  

This app is simplistic yet provides a great level of protection


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Mobile  

Keep your devices clean and safe, preventing any malware from being installed


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

Lookout Security & Antivirus  

A true veteran with a lot of experience in mobile security


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

Avast Antivirus & Security  

An anti-malware engine with a complete set of protection tools


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Limited features)
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 freeware. More demanding than previous versions on older phones.
Read full review...

Comodo Antivirus & Mobile Security  

An awesome anti-malware app plus some handy utilities


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

Sophos Free Antivirus and Security  

An awesome 100% free security app with great anti-malware capabilities


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

360 Security  

A capable app goes beyond the common anti-malware strategy by adding hotfixes


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

Other Security Apps Reviewed

 

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.

 

Security Apps Not Recommended After Review

 

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.

 

Questions About Android Security

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.

If Android cannot be infected with a “virus”, why do I need to install an antivirus app?

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 have exceeded 1 billion and there are over 1 million apps and games available in the Play Store, which generated billions of downloads. 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 and it is there where security apps find their meaning. Beware that a security report from Kaspersky Labs made in 2014 has established that the number of malicious apps for Android has hit the 10 million mark.

Does Android have 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. ;-)

Isn't downloading apps from the Play Store safe?

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.

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. 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.

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.

 

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Comments

360 Security for Android now with:
►Anti-theft
An all-in-one anti-theft solution, should you lose your beloved phone. A suite of features including, Erase, Locate, Alarm and Lock can assist you with retrieving a lost device and protecting personal data.You can trigger remote features via our web interface at http://findphone.360safe.com
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.qihoo.security&referrer=qihoo_id%3D104988

Comodo Mobile Security free version 3 released.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.comodo.cisme.antivirus&hl=en

360 Security version 3.x has anti-theft capabilities

Please update this post

May I ask what you think the problematic/intrusive permissions are with 360 Security?
To me the permissions 360 security ask for are pretty similar to that of CM Security, your current top pick.

Thanks.

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.

It is good

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
Good job - thanks for the update. :) MC - Site Manager.
It was my pleasure, MC. Let's hope our readers like it as you do. :D

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

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?

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??

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.

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.

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.

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

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