Are mobile antivirus security apps actually working?

Android Virus scanner for Android - do I need it?

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Yes, they do exist: virus apps and other malicious software (“malware”) that target Android smartphones. Malicious apps use your smartphone to mine Bitcoin, and spy out bank and other sensitive data. The good news: As dangerous as the Android malware is, it is easy to protect yourself from it in practice. We'll show you how to do it and clarify whether a virus scanner is really necessary on Android.

After Windows and macOS, the manufacturers of anti-virus programs have long been discovering Android as a new market for themselves. In fact, almost all of the major security suites from the Windows world can now also be found in the Google Play Store. Avira, G-Data, Avast and the like promise to protect your Android smartphone from malware and other security threats. But do you really need a permanently running app to reliably protect yourself against Android viruses?

Google Play Protect: How to use Android's built-in virus scanner

Google has been distributing it since summer 2017 Google Play Protect a new security solution for Android. Google Play Protect automatically scans all installed and new apps for security threats. If the service detects a security problem, it warns you automatically and removes the dangerous apps. The highlight: Play Protect comes with an automatic update of the Google Play services on all androids, You do not have to install and activate the security solution manually. Even the now completely outdated Android versions 4.x (under the code names "Ice Cream Sandwich" and "Jelly Bean") receive Play Protect.

To check the status and availability of Play Protect, do the following:

6 tips: How to protect your Android smartphone from malware

The likelihood that Google will use Play Protect to identify dangerous apps is high. Still, you shouldn't rely solely on Google's service. Here are six simple tips you can use to protect your Android smartphone:

  1. Don't install apps from unknown sources:
    Most malware apps do not spread through the Google Play Store, but through alternative download portals. Also "Drive-by downloads“Malicious apps that sneak their way onto your phone via corrupted websites are a real danger - at least if you allow them to be installed. Because: ex works, Android prevents the installation of apps outside the Play Store. To make sure this is the case, take a look in your smartphone's settings. You will find the Option to install apps from unknown sources in the area of ​​"security". Disable them to prevent unauthorized installations.

    The disadvantage of this important security measure: You also have to do without reputable alternative sources such as the open source marketplace F-Droid or the APKMirror app archive. If necessary, you can temporarily deactivate the setting. By the way: From Android 8.0 alias "Oreo" the setting is no longer available. With every installation from external sources, Android asks whether you want to allow the installation or not. So can you decide on a case-by-case basis whether you trust the app or not.
  2. Install Android updates:
    Not only installed apps can endanger your smartphone. Like any operating system, Android keep popping up Vulnerabilities that attackers can take advantage of. Because of this, Google delivers regular Security updates for his mobile system - Unfortunately, these rarely arrive on all devices. Aside from Google's Nexus and Pixel smartphones, many devices are stuck on old Android versions. If there is an update for your smartphone, you should still install it. You can check whether an update is available in the smartphone settings. Look here for an entry like "System updates“Or similar and follow the instructions to update your android. You can get information about the current status of the Android security updates directly from the Android developers at https://source.android.com/security/bulletin/.
  3. Do without root access:
    For many Android fans, the Google system is only really fun with root access. On a rooted android, apps can access actually locked system areas, which opens up completely new possibilities for smartphone use. The downside: Many malicious apps try to root deep into the system using root access in order to cause greater damage. Malicious apps try to wreak havoc via root access, especially on older Android versions such as Android 4 or Android 5. To play it safe, you should refrain from rooting your smartphone. This also has advantages, by the way: Many app providers do not allow their applications to run on rooted androids for security reasons. This applies to many banking apps, for example.
  4. Check app permissions:
    Despite all security efforts on the part of Google: Android apps can access a lot of sensitive data if necessary. Of course, malware also makes diligent use of this. Fortunately, you can find it in the Play Store under "Authorization details“All the access an app needs on your smartphone. You should be attentive here: If you want to read a simple mobile phone game, for example, your text messages or even e-mails, you should be skeptical. Serious app developers explain in the Play Store description why the permissions are necessary.

  5. Keep your eyes peeled for app updates:
    Even after installing it, you should keep an eye on your Android apps. That's even more true if you update it later. There have been several cases in the past in which malware developers initially turned harmless programs into Android malware by updating them. So, especially with "smaller" apps, check what it entails before updating. You should be particularly vigilant if an app requires new access rights on your smartphone for an update. Android will indicate this in this case. You should then be in the Check the app's changelogwhat the new rights are needed for.
  6. Stay informed:
    The combination of Google Play Protect and our security tips should protect your smartphone from almost all Android threats. Still, it doesn't hurt to stay up to date with Android security. Websites such as Heise Security or the official Android Security Center provide regular information about current threats and how you can protect yourself against them.

Are Android virus scanners superfluous?

The question of whether separate virus scanners are completely superfluous under Android cannot be answered in such a general way. If you regularly install apps from third-party sources, a "second opinion" on security issues may be useful. Sending emails via smartphone can also become a security problem if potentially infected attachments are forwarded without being checked. Many security suites for Android offer additional functionsthat the basic system does not offer. For example, you can block certain calls or use a firewall function to prevent apps from sending data in the background. In addition, the suites often offer extended functions to find lost or stolen smartphones or to delete them remotely if necessary.

Android can do some of this with on-board resources, depending on the smartphone and Android version, but the extra features may be worth installing. In our experience, the installation of Android malware scanners rarely causes major disadvantages in terms of battery life and performance. Nevertheless, you should make sure that the security solutions do not attract attention through excessive data collection or annoying advertising. If this is the case, it is better to throw the app from your smartphone again - you do not suffer a major security penalty.