The huge size of the phone and tablet market makes it a tempting target for Android malware authors, scammers and criminals. Here is a free utility to protect your Android device.
Android viruses are rare, but this is just a technicality and if we lump together spyware, adware, Trojans, tricks and scams, there are are large number of dangers of one form or another lurking out there on the internet. Fortunately, most of them are not in the Google Play Store and that is a relatively safe and malware-free zone.
There have been cases of Android malware in the store, but Google monitors apps, tests them, and removes dodgy ones that do things they shouldn’t and compromise your security and privacy.
However, apps are often removed after being first added to the store and only after some people have downloaded them. It probably isn’t a good idea to be among the first to download a brand new app from an unknown developer, no matter how tempting it may sound. Wait until other people have tried it and reported that it works well with no problems.
Not long ago we reported on MazarBOT, a new type of malware that was attacking Android phones. It was being distributed by text message and this is another way in which Android malware spreads.
A text message or an email is created that looks legitimate and perhaps even from someone you might expect to send you messages, like your phone company, Google, Microsoft, Apple, your bank, PayPal and other. In the message is a link and when this is pressed, it takes you to a website that is specially designed to download and install the malware. Your phone is then infected.
Take care with text messages and emails and unless you are absolutely sure that the sender can be trusted, do not tap any links they may contain.
Another way that malware gets into your phone or tablet is by sideloading apps. By changing the settings on your Android device, you can configure it to allow the installation of apps from outside of the Google Play Store.
The problem is that malware is much more common among these alternative sources. Alternative app stores run by other people and not Google, Amazon, Samsung or some other recognisable company, often harbours malware.
Sometimes the malware is made to look like ordinary apps, like popular social networks, messaging and games. You might think you are downloading Angry Birds or Facebook or something equally recognisable, but if you are not using the Google Play Store then it is possible that these apps have been injected with malware.
Alternative app stores, direct downloads from websites, and cracked apps - paid apps that are offered for free, should be avoided unless you are very careful and have good security software on your Android device.
What is the best antivirus for Android tablets and phones?
One of the top contenders and an app that you should definitely check out, is Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. This is a free app for Android devices and it is available in the Google Play Store.
You need to pay attention during the first run because it asks you to grant permission for it to access usage data. Just follow the instructions (on a Samsung Galaxy S6 with Android 6 for example, the permission is in Settings, Lock screen and security, Other security settings, Usage data access).
This enables Anti-Malware to provide real-time protection and so apps you install or run can be scanned automatically to make sure that they are safe and free of malware. The app also scans for PUPs - potentially unwanted programs (or should that be PUAs - potentially unwanted apps?).
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware can be run and a scan performed manually, but you probably won’t need to do this very often. In addition to real-time protection there are scheduled scans and these run automatically every day, although you can modify this schedule and make it weekly if you want.
After the initial scan when the app is first run, scheduled scans are quick. According to the scan log in the app, it finished today’s scheduled scan in 41 seconds.
A Security audit function looks at the phone settings and highlights ones that impact security. These include location tracking, installing apps from unknown sources, and a few others. One interesting setting in the security audit is Development mode. Tapping this takes you to a place in the phone settings that cannot normally be accessed.
There are are large number of secret settings for Android that you never knew existed and if you are technically minded you might want Anti-Malware just to get into this hidden feature on your phone.
There is also a privacy audit that checks all your apps and organises them into categories. These include apps that can cost you money, apps that can make calls, apps that can track your location, apps that can read your personal information, and so on.
You can view the apps in these categories and see which apps they contain and what they can access. It is probably reading the permissions on the apps installed on the phone or tablet, but most people just agree to app permissions without thinking and Anti-Malware is useful for checking those apps you have installed.
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware has not found any issues on my phone, but that is because I stick to the Google Play Store and safe apps. Even if you do, you are still at risk from SMS messages with malware links and Anti-Malware scans them and checks that they are OK.
This is a useful app for anyone concerned about security on their Android phone or tablet.
Title: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
Size: 9.4 MB
Android: 2.3 and up
Verdict: Seems to cover all the security essentials.
(You can protect your Windows PC with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware too. Check out Speed up scanning with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. It contains my affiliate link for Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. The Android version is free and I get nothing if you install it. I just think it’s a great app.)
- Written by Roland Waddilove
- Created: 08 May 2016