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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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

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?

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