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.

 

Related Products and Links

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Editor

This software review is maintained by volunteer editor ryan777hubb. Registered members can contact the editor by clicking here. clicking here.

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Comments

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi, Let me clear some things up: There is no such thing as a permission that allows automatic assent to any additional permissions that could be added later by the developers; that is a big lie. The PlayStore always shows the permissions list every time you attempt to install a new app. If you are updating an app and it has added new permissions, the PlayStore will show a "NEW" tag next to them, so you can know what they are for. If you don't like the new permissions, you can keep the old version and cancel the update or uninstall the app altogether. As for your search for 360 Mobile security, I found no harmful information and I saw that is recommended by a bunch of well-known sites. However, it is true that 360's apps should be more transparent and they could add a description of the permissions and what are they needed for, sadly they don't, so we are left alone trying to guess why are they needed and what exactly these permissions do. I had to write this long answer because the information you wrote about the permissions is not accurate. We don't want to confuse our readers nor provide them with misleading statements. If you have any additional questions or comments about this, please feel free to visit our forum. Thanks.
Larrychamp, Thanks for posting your thoughts about 360. Truth is this permission is new and was added in v1.6.5 on February 23rd. However, in order to be precise, the permission does not say "send e-mails"; it says "send messages". Now, coming back to the core of the matter, that permission is indeed a highly sensitive one, so I wrote an email to the guys at Qihoo regarding that matter but I haven't got a reply yet. For the time being, I must advice against updating to the 1.6.5 version. Installing 360 Mobile Safe is not an option, as it requires the same *fishy* permission. At this point, my recommendation would be to install other apps such as Comodo, Avast! or Sophos, at least until we get a response from Qihoo.

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

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

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

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

Is this likely to happen soon?

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

Thanks for your kind words about this review. About VirusTotal, well, it is a very useful app, but it only detects potentially "malicious" APKs and it doesn't scan other kinds of threats in real-time. Additionally, it needs and active internet connection to do its job. All in all, it may be added in future updates, but we will give priority to the more versatile apps since this category is facing constant changes as new apps arrive and the old ones are getting updated faster than expected. Regards.

What about kaspersky Lite?. It's free and supposed to be good.

Just tried TrustGo after reading this. It has decent resource monitors and RAM optimizer, but the anti-theft features are almost non-existent and everything else is way too basic. It did not have a 'photograph the thief' feature, even though my phone has 2 cameras. The SIM-change activation consists of a tick box, no options or mention of how it will send an alert. The 'find my phone' feature could only disable the phone, trigger an alarm or wipe it. It frequently could not find the phone, even with good signals. The browsing privacy and scan features just run with no explanation or options (scan = 1 button, privacy = 1 tick-box), but if the reviews are correct they are reliable. Just far too minimal for something so important and definitely not for me. Found Avast a bit of a resource hog, but it has a lot more to offer.

Thanks for sharing your experiences regarding TrustGo. Truth is we re-evaluate the reviewed apps every once in a while to check its changelogs. If you read some of the comments below, you'll see TrustGo is facing some issues that cannot be ignored, therefore we will definetely consider all those flaws in the next update which should happen the next week.

Since 360 doesn't have anti theft and locating features, which anti theft /locating app do you suggest using in conjunction with 360?

There are 2 versions, 360 Mobile Security - Antivirus & 360 Mobile Safe - Antivirus + Anti-Theft.

Both are free. If you want Anti-Theft, try 360 Mobile Safe.

Google introduced and extension called "Android device manager" back in august. This extension was bundled with a PlayStore update which added this tool as a device manager and it lets you locate your Android device on a map, see when it was last located and when it was last used, as well as ring, lock and wipe the device. The best thing of this extension is that it automatically links your device to your existing Google account (the one you use for the PlayStore for instance) so there's no need to create a new account or register to a new service to manage your device remotely. However, if you didn't get this tool installed along with the PlayStore update back in august, you can install it from the PlayStore: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.adm You can get more info about how this tool works in the official page: https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/3265955 I hope you found this information helpful.

On this same product. What's the difference between 360 Mobile Security and 360 Mobile Safe? Both by the same company Mobile Safe appears to be free, the same scanning engine but lots of extra features like applock, private vault space etc. So are they one in the same as far as performance and detection and both free?

360 Mobile Security is an antimalware app with some extra basic tools. 360 Mobile Safe, on the other hand, is more like a "all-in-one" maintenance tool for Android. I tested it and it does what it promises in a good way. It is not a bad app, but if the only thing you're looking for is protection against malware, you'd better stick to 360 Mobile Security. I faced some problems when I tried to update Mobile Safe's malware definitions (the app tried to connect to the internet, but I received an "error" message instead) and its memory footprint while working in the background is about 15 MB, which is not that high, but it could be lower. 360 Mobile Security and 360 Mobile Safe coexist with each other with no problems, but I cannot make a statement about the latter's detection capabilities since I didn't perform an in-deep testing of 360 Mobile Safe; however, since it comes from the same company, I asume it must be the same (?). 360 Mobile Safe has a lot of potential and is still at an early stage (v1.0.0), so there's a lot of room for improvement but I wouldn't use it to replace 360 Mobile Security for the time being.

Thanks very much for looking into this. I'll stick with 360 Mobile Security out of the two if I end up switching to one of those.

Thanks again!

I have spent the last couple of days trying out 360 Mobile Safe. In short, I really like it! One thing, however, to keep in mind is that the anti-theft module does NOT work on a tablet. It requires a sim card. This product was ideally made for a phone, not a tablet. That's not to say that I didn't really like it on my tablet; because I did. It is the only AV that I've used on this tablet that did not drain my battery one iota. I charged my tablet overnight and then took it to work. After lunch I turned it on and it still said 100% battery. None of the previous AV's I have used have done that. Another feature I really liked was that it showed me all the downloaded apk files that I had installed previously but since had un-installed. I didn't realize that the apk files were still on my tablet. I deleted over a GB of old apk files that I no longer needed. The last feature I really liked is what I call a "boost" feature. It's essentially an icon on your screen that you can click and it will clear out your RAM (or close background applications). Lastly, if you know anything about wakelocks, Mobile Safe 360 did not have any wakelocks at all over 3 days.

(1) Where's MalwareBytes?! This list was updated December 12, almost 2 months after its long-awaited arrival in Google Play.
(2) You have done an excellent job highlighting apk scanning, privacy features, and various utilities. However, you touch very little on the biggest malware threat of all: those embedded in pdfs and other common files. Many of these apps do not offer real-time scanning of new non-apk downloads. And several—including your new favourite app, 360 Mobile Security—offer no file scanning capabilities at all. At the very least, this should be added to the "con" list. This is a much more critical feature of any antivirus app. While phone finding, RAM monitoring, and backups are wonderful, they are not a necessary component of an anti-malware solution, and there are many excellent free apps available that provide these services. I—amongst others, I imagine—would rather use an app that provides full anti-malware protection and no other features, as opposed to a security "suite" that provides many services but no protection against documents etc. Thankfully, there are quite a few apps that offer this protection, but this list is more or less ignoring this aspect.

Even though the review shows as 'updated in dec 13th' truth is it wasn't. That's the date of a fix to the html code performed by a member of our site's staff, therefore there was no actual update to the review. In any case, we don't add apps as soon as they are launched as we don't like to get out list overcrowded. We are very careful when adding new apps to this list, and MalwareBytes is just about 3 months old now, with version 1.1 being the latest. I tried 1.0 version and it had a good ammount of issues which I hope were fixed in the 1.1 version. As you may see by reading one of the comments below, even TrustGo (an app we liked very much) is showing some security flaws now. However, you've made a point about 360's 'cons' (which is duly noted) but one of the main reasons we chose it as a top-pick is the one you mentioned: it offers protection against malware while excluding unwanted features. I you have concerns about file-embedded malware there are some apps that perform advanced file scanning such as Dr. Web and Sophos in case you want to test its capabilities. Lastly, we have to consider that not everyone has a device with >1GB of RAM, that's why checking the RAM usage is a critical point in our evaluation as (believe it or not) 512MB of RAM is still a common setup and any security app with real-time scanning which turns out to be a RAM hog would inevitably lead to performance issues.

As much as I loved trustgo, I don't like any of the apps it suggests in the hot apps section. Following your tips I read their permissions before installing them and they are not as transparent as they should. I perfomed a search about this issue I found a lot of people with the same concerns about the kind of apps trustgo suggests, so I uninstalled it. I installed Dr. Web instead and it said one of the apps I had installed from hot apps was leadbolt adware!!!

Whats the point of installing a security app when it suggests you to install dubious apps? Shouldn't it warn you against those instead? Please, reconsider your ratings about trustgo.

Thanks for your feedback. I cannot confirm nor deny what you're saying since I never installed an app from TrustGo's 'Hot Apps' section. However, due to the nature of your claims I will give it a shot and will report back once I test that on my own. If any of your claims prove to be true, rest assured we'll make the necessary changes in the upcoming review. Regards.
This is a case of advertising. The Hot Apps are shown as a list, when you click on App Manager within the app. It's misleading, yes. But, with the kind of intrusive advertising going on in the computer world, both on PC and in the phones, a user has to be careful on what he is clicking on. You can get a rogue software, when you click on an advertisement in your web browser. Many apps in smartphones show ads while the app is running. It's on the user not to click on dubious looking apps. Like, MxPlayer, one of the most popular and excellent video player app, shows dubious ads, like, "you have 3 virus infections, click here to clean them up". Therefore, it's up on us to be careful of what we tap or click on. Sadly, yes, it's all misleading, and is meant to deceive the users into clicking or tapping, and that's what happened here. I wouldn't ever click on such ads, or hot apps shown as ads. I would rather download from the official app store.
Looks possibly to be the same kind of setup as Avast! including Chrome and other Windows apps using wrapped installers which is now becoming the norm. MC - Site Manager.
You're right MC. Some Android apps are using a similar scheme. The sad news here is that they're using 'Leadbolt' and 'Android Push' adware which are very annoying. Some variants will work even when your device is not connected to the internet and they show ads from dubious frameworks such as SendDroid, AppBucks and Kuguo. For users with Android 4.0.x and lower that's a huge concern, as you cannot tell which app is to blame unless you install a 3rd party app. Jelly Bean users (4.1 and up) however, can get rid of those apps easily, as the OS itself will point out the app which is causing the problems.

Hmm funny that all my comments were taken out. Maybe admin guys could put this under a different thread and not use my post as heading? How do i delete my account from here??

Which comments of yours were taken out? How many? You only posted another comment on 30th August, just below, and it's still there. Which other comments are you talking about? If you want to get your account deleted, either send a personal request to one of the moderators, or post in the forum. If you want specific help for your issue, please post in the forum, where it will be answered better, and will also be organized. The proper place for asking for help is the forum anyways.

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