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.

 
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CM (CleanMaster) Security
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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 Anupam on 2. September 2013 - 11:25  (110466)

I have posted my thoughts about Avast in the forum thread, after I uninstalled and reinstalled Avast again.

I see that you recently updated the review. Thanks for all your hard work, and thorough reviews.

I might try TrustGo sometime. Its features look good to me, and it remains all free.

Keep up the good work :).

by Anupam on 2. September 2013 - 10:06  (110463)

Really sad to see Avast going down this route.

I agree that if there are free and commercial versions, a clear comparison should be there, with two different apps available, and commercial features should be kept away from the free version.

It's really a shame how great products start to go down because of such practices.

by IO.Hazard on 9. July 2013 - 1:54  (109062)

Dear Gizmo's readers,

I know it's been more than a month since the review was updated and I'm sure many of you are eager to read an updated review. Please be patient, as I'm updating every single reviewed app with its latest relevant info.

I know there's a ton of reviews out there, as well as "expert lab rankings". Using them, however, would hurt the independent spirit of this site. Besides, "expert tests" do not provide any guarantee that those apps are as good as the test claims. If you don't believe it, well, here's an article you may find interesting.

http://securitywatch.pcmag.com/none/303860-can-you-trust-android-anti-ma...

Have a nice day!

by naren on 11. July 2013 - 14:34  (109043)

COMODO Mobile Security (CMS) 2.1 Released

New! Protection rules (allow/deny/ask) for Privacy Advisor entries.
New! Boot manager to manage auto-start apps
New! Encryption support in Private Space
New! x86 arch is supported. You can now enjoy CMS in VirtualBox or even your PC!
FIXED! CMS asks for virus database update repeatedly under certain circumstance.

[Moderator's note: Link to direct download of file removed. Not permitted as per site/forum rules.]

by EricCRZ on 4. July 2013 - 11:18  (108962)

Can we have an updated review?

Looking at the latest AV-Test.org results dated 17 June 2013 - TrustGo scored just below the average with 95.4%. Whereas both Avast! & Comodo scored 99.8%.

I've recently been running Avast primarily for it's web based anti-theft but it does lag on my Android 2.3 so I'm weighing up the alternatives.

Love your reviews etc. Been a long time user of your site!

Cheers,

Eric

by MidnightCowboy on 4. July 2013 - 12:54  (108964)

Choosing an antivirus for any platform solely on the basis of a set of test results is a dodgy game at best. The results you quote for instance are almost reversed for TrustGo and Avast! in the space of just a couple of months. Different tests will also give different results and the worst thing that anyone can do is to swap out one product for another on the basis of a test score.

http://www.av-test.org/en/tests/mobile-devices/android/mar-2013/
http://www.av-test.org/en/tests/mobile-devices/android/may-2013/

The bottom line is that Windows and mobile devices are such an attractive proposition for scammers and malware writers in general that no one product is likely to offer greater protection than another within those that consistently score average or above. It is also important users appreciate that the best protection involves some cooperation from them regarding surfing and download habits and that security software cannot be relied upon for total protection. MC - Site Manager.

by EricCRZ on 4. July 2013 - 17:44  (108972)

That's a very valid point Midnight. I think I was getting caught up in the Test results chase. I've switched back and fourth lots of times recently and ended up coming back to Avast because of the constant updates and good support.

I'm sticking with it now and today's update seems to have fixed the lag I was experiencing ;)

It's easy to get caught up in detection rates but I'm realizing it's a lot more than that.

Thanks,

Eric

by Theziggy on 30. May 2013 - 8:22  (108146)

Re Avast antivirus

I installed this and it said that my txt app - Handcent was not compatible. I use Handcent a lot more than I scan for viruses so until Avast plays nicely with Handcent I'll make do with a competitor

Theo

by IO.Hazard on 31. May 2013 - 1:40  (108168)

Avast!'s Anti-theft component appears to have problems with several messaging apps. I have personally experienced that issue with Go SMS, Pansi and other instant messaging apps since installed avast! for the first time. I thought the 2.0 version would fix some of these issues, but it didn't.

I contacted avast! about this "incompatibility " issue some months ago, and they explained to me that installing third-party SMS apps won't cause any problem with your phone nor avast! themselves. The "only" issue with that, as they told me, is that any SMS command you send will appear in the third-party app, INCLUDING your PIN code (!), which would render the logic of the anti-theft protection completely useless. I decided to put that statement to the test while using Go SMS and it turned out to be true. My top-secret "1234" test PIN was shown along with my "lock" command.

Anyway, if you really need to install one of the "incompatible" instant messaging apps for any reason AND you don't want to uninstall avast!, using the online anti-theft instead of the SMS-based tools is the only option I can think of.

by Theziggy on 31. May 2013 - 8:26  (108176)

Thanks IO.Hazard

That makes sense. Thanks for the info.

by IO.Hazard on 24. May 2013 - 23:09  (108016)

Comodo has updated the Play Store with Comodo Mobile Security & Antivirus Free 2.0 (Finally).

Although the review has not been updated yet, the Quick Selection links have been updated with the latest info.

The updated review will follow soon.

Regards.

by naren on 9. May 2013 - 9:35  (107588)

Dear Reviewer,

You updated the reviews on 5 May 2013. I read Comodo Mobile Security review. I guess you reviewed old version 1.5. New version 2.0 released on 19 April 2013. The official site https://m.comodo.com/ shows old version but the download gives latest version 2. Google Play still shows 1.5 but Comodo Devs mentioned CMS on GP will be updated in few days.

What's new in version 2?

1. Network Firewall (root needed)
Automatically block unnecessary connections to the Internet
2. Privacy Advisor
Quickly find out which permissions are requested by your apps
3. Apk Manager
Manage your Android installation files

What's improved?

1. Improve Scheduled Task
Schedule tasks to run at specific dates and times
2. Enhance the protection performance
Refined AV Engine Scan Algorithm to improve the detection effectiveness

Version 2 received an update yesterday i.e 8 May 2013
Regards
Naren

by IO.Hazard on 9. May 2013 - 19:13  (107608)

Thanks for the heads up. Your feedback is much appreciated.

Truth is I was not aware of Comodo's new 2.0 version because I download the apps only from the Play Store which, sadly, still shows the v1.5.269807.9 as the latest version updated on march-11th-2013.

However, I confirmed the information you gave by downloading the official APK from the https://m.comodo.com/ page (v2.0.276884.16 with virus def. 88.0 - MD5: 02c85a2577acfc7262a975c7f872395d) and it is working fine. The main downside is that there are no notifications when a new version is available. You have to manually check for updates.

Let's hope Comodo updates its Play Store page with the latest APK soon because this new version looks promising. I'll update the review with the new info as soon as I finish testing it.

by naren on 10. May 2013 - 18:29  (107638)

Few options, stuffs, etc........as per Devs will be there in the upcoming CMS upgrade very soon, like autoupdate/upgrade schedule, etc...

by Sastro Cendol on 27. April 2013 - 16:36  (107359)

Maybe the downline from TrustGO is RAM consuming issue, especially at low-end or limied stock RAM phone. I can say that because it happened at me (my phone slowing down for a little). Bassically overall features is good and secure.
It's absolutely if more features needed more resources.

by IO.Hazard on 27. April 2013 - 21:34  (107363)

How much RAM does your phone have? I installed TrustGo on a wide range of devices including one with 384 MB of RAM. The phone struggled a bit to do the job (that's undeniable), but in the end it managed to run TrustGo decently.

Anyway, you must know it is hard to ask TrustGo (or any other app for that matter) to keep low RAM usage values all the time, specially when you consider the power it packs. That is even more relevant when you consider that most of the security apps reviewed here are well above the 10 MB mark even when idle.

by cyguyjg on 27. April 2013 - 13:20  (107357)

If a perp steals your device and roots it, is TrustGo's Device Protection defeated?

by IO.Hazard on 27. April 2013 - 17:03  (107360)

If your phone gets lost of stolen, what happens next is up to the person who has it. In the worst case scenario, your phone could end up in the hands of unscrupulous people who know advanced "stuff", which would severely restrict the options you have to recover your phone. That means that neither TrustGo, avast!, Lookout or any of the other apps listed above could be used effectively no matter if the phone is rooted or not.

If your device is running on Android 4.0 or up, I encourage you to use the system encryption (go to Settings > Security > Encrypt phone). It won't help you to recover your phone but at least it will keep all your personal data protected from thieves and snoopers.

by jimcarter1959 on 26. April 2013 - 16:00  (107353)

I switched from Lookout Mobile Security to TrustGo after Lookout failed to back up contacts on 2 different phones. In fact; at no point did Lookout EVER function for back up. Needless to say, TrustGo performs this task flawlessly!

by IO.Hazard on 10. April 2013 - 17:05  (106967)

Dear visitors,

We will consider your comments and suggestions about new free apps (no trial / commercial products will be accepted) but we can't post a review for your suggested apps right away. As you may know there are tons of Security Apps out there and we simply cannot review them all. If you have suggested and app but you didn't see it added in the review even after a long time, it could be due to several reasons:

1. An app with a better performance already exists in the current review.
2. The app installs some kind of annoying adware (such as Airpush).
3. The app is a scam (a.k.a. a plain Fake App).

Please don't let yourselves fall just for the rating an app has. Some fishy apps force users to give a 5 stars rating first in order to run the app, thus creating a misleading rating.

Last but don't least, don't post a suggestion for the same app over and over again, otherwise we will flag it as Spam.

Thank you!

Regards.

by IO.Hazard on 22. March 2013 - 19:33  (106477)

Update about Avast! and AVG Anti-Virus free.

If you're using Avast!, you may have noticed that the latest definitions have labeled some apps such as GMail and WhatsApp as malware. Although that can be avoided by simply whitelisting the flagged app(s), it's not the best thing to happen to a user (let's hope there weren't any false negatives). Avast! promised to launch a fixed definition update to solve that problem but you may need to apply it manually. Read more: http://forum.avast.com/index.php?topic=118778.0

AVG seems to have a similar problem reporting "false positives" and the issue remains even after updating the definitions, so it may be a problem with the anti-malware engine itself.

The review will be updated accordingly soon.

by billy22taxi on 17. March 2013 - 14:09  (106312)

AV-TEST - The Independant, IT-Security Institute, has released Mobile Devices Android etc... Test Results

http://www.av-test.org/en/tests/mobile-devices/android/jan-2013/ TrustGo got top marks

by IO.Hazard on 18. March 2013 - 22:32  (106362)

Many people suggested me to check TrustGo Mobile and I'm in the process of writing a review for it.

As for the AV-Test Results themselves, they are a good reference but since the report didn't cover some of the apps included here, it cannot be used as the basis for our reviews. It simply would not be fair to mention just the AV-Tested apps while ignoring the unreviewed ones.

by Sastro Cendol on 4. March 2013 - 17:23  (105936)

Perhaps I can give a little information about the deficiency of Dr.Web Light, there are:

- No options for scheduled scanning.
- Scanning time is took too long when u performing Full Scan (comparing other AV)

However, what's the actually definition of Android AV?

by Dcreed on 8. February 2013 - 2:03  (105188)

Thanks for the reviews! 2 questions
1. How do you test for detection rates, what is your methodology and tools? I'd love to be able to help test.
2. How do these free apps make money for the developers? I'm a firm believer in there is no such thing as a free lunch. My concern being if I'm not paying out right for the app what are they getting out of it? My personal data, ads, selling behavioral info to some marketeer?

Thanks for taking the time to write up the review.
Dcreed

by IO.Hazard on 8. February 2013 - 20:36  (105214)

I see you liked the article. Thanks!

As for your first question, I am currently using a test-drive phone (rooted, unlocked bootloader) to perform the antivirus tests. I'm also using CWM as my backup and restore tool to switch between different Android versions (2.3 and 4.0) easily. I know it may sound crazy to play around with actual malware, but it's the only way to test a security app (and have some fun in the process). As for the malware samples themselves, I just look for them "in the wild" after reading the reports posted by different anti-malware software companies.

About your second question, well, I think you should read this: http://www.arachnoid.com/freeware/index.html.
It will help you to understand the real essence of true freeware and its difference with the rest of the software.

I understand your concern about your privacy. Some developers and companies will try to trick you into installing their "free" app to get money through ads (or "sponsored links" as they like to call them), or by trying to sell you a "better" (paid) app. That's why reading any app's permissions before installing it is a must for any user. Reading the app's EULA is a good idea too, as it will allow you to see exactly what you are getting and what you are giving in return. If you don't like what you're seeing, you can always switch to another app.

by Anupam on 31. January 2013 - 9:39  (104991)

Excellent update IO.Hazard! And a great introduction to the review. Two thumbs up! Keep up the great work :).

by MidnightCowboy on 31. January 2013 - 9:44  (104993)

Absolutely! Clean, clear and Comprehensive. :)

by IO.Hazard on 31. January 2013 - 19:43  (104998)

Many, many thanks guys. This last update certainly took a while. I ran accross some high rated security apps during the review process and I had to test them. As it turned out, they weren't as good as their rating said. They're now added to the "Reviewed but not recommended" list.

by Anupam on 31. January 2013 - 20:35  (104999)

Have observed this with other apps too. The ratings are good reference, but not a surety that the app will be good.

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