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...

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...

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...

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

IO.Hazard, I have replied to this in the forum thread. I haven't come across these changes yet. So, some confirmation is needed, before you decide to take Avast out of the review, or give a low rating. It would really be sad if this was true.
Payment details for "premium" features are here, but I can't seem to find a list of what these are. Without some sort of comparison it's not that easy to decide how much like crippleware the free version now is. MC - Site Manager. https://blog.avast.com/2013/08/22/avast-mobile-premium-the-ultimate-in-m...
It indicates that the premium version has more features than free version, like backup, etc. If I understand correctly, the anti-theft feature is still available for the free version, but the premium version adds more features to it, like taking pics, and sound recording, in case of attempt to break into the mobile. So, free version still functions like before, and remains the same according to the article, which is what I have observed.
Anupam, I'm not planning to take avast out from the list as it is still a capable app. However, I think some apps have kept pace with the enhancements and are showing some impressive muscle while still being 100% free, which leaves avast in an awkward position. Another problem that occurs is that avast's new version has increased its size and RAM usage due to the numerous additions it packs, even though some of those additions cannot be used (nor enabled or disabled) unless you pay for them. Regarding the protection shields, I ran accross some problems: sometimes a malicious site/download was blocked effectively, while some others didn't. It could be a bug, I don't know for sure, but I think this haphazard hit-or-miss in the web-shield needs to be solved.
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 :).
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.
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!

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.]

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

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.

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

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

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.

Thanks IO.Hazard

That makes sense. Thanks for the info.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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!

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.
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.
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.

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?

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

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.

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