Android Virus Threats, Malware and Antivirus Software

Is an Android antivirus app a necessity or a precaution?

So, you’ve got an Android phone and you’re wondering whether you need to think about antivirus software. You’re not alone. Many android phone users wonder about the extent to which their phones are exposed and the degree of risk virus threats represent.

The key question : “Is an Android antivirus app a necessity or a precaution?” The starting point for an answer begins by understanding a bit about how Android phones work.

Android phones have some basic security features built in

Android smart phones inherently have internal protection against malware (malicious software). One of the core components of Android safety is “sandboxing”. Every app you run on your Android phone runs in a quarantined environment or “sandbox”.

In order to get certification from Google for their apps, developers have to configure basic settings correctly in the first place.

  • Unknown sources must be disabled :
    Security settings must, by default, be set to automatically disable access from “unknown sources”. This limits the user’s ability to inadvertently download software from sites which are unreliable and offers a layer of safety for those who are not technically minded.
  • Access denial :
    If an app tries to install files or extract data from your phone, basic Android operating system functionality will prompt you to allow or deny that information to leave. If you deny the request the app is blocked and your information stays on your phone. This gives the user the last word in determining what details they let slip. By rejecting access requests from suspicious apps you ensure that your mobile security remains on a high level.

Some Android users are content to rely on these, and other, fundamental Android facilities. These basic, in-built security safeguards are enough for them. In fact, according to investigations made by Trend Micro, only one out of three American Android tablet and phone users have installed an antivirus app.

You should also use the same common sense security you would on your desktop machine

Additionally, it is still recommended to take the same precautions you take with your desktop computer. As yourself :

  • Is the request my phone is asking of me reasonable ?
    When you’re prompted to give an app access to information on your phone, ask yourself if there is any good reason to accept the request. For example, a gaming app has no need to access your phone contacts or messages. When your suspicions are aroused, the best policy is to disallow access. Before you download any app check out its details and review the user comments. These basics apply just as much to your phone as your laptop.
  • Follow basic “do not” guidelines :
    • Do not download files from unknown websites.
    • Do not open URLs sent to you in unexpected emails or from people you don’t trust.
  • Don’t disable Android smart phone security features.
    Some Android owners even disable the device’s security features in the belief it will make it work faster. Anyone concerned over mobile viruses should never make such a foolish move.
  • Avoid keeping a record of critical information on your phone :
    This includes passwords, bank account details, and other sensitive personal data.
  • Keep your phone’s system software up to date :
    When prompted, download free updates for your Android phone. These updates often include system security enhancements.

Android Malware Threats

The terms malware and viruses are sometimes used interchangeably, might be categorized along with worms, trojans and spyware as types of malware. For a good, working definition, we quote a few lines from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Report on Malware and Harmful Software :

“Malware infections enable computers, and potentially tablets and smartphones, to be controlled remotely for illegal or harmful purposes without the users’ knowledge. Possible repercussions for internet users include the mass distribution of spam, hosting of phishing sites or identity theft.”

The consequences of a malware attack can be severe. Even the smallest risk of someone accessing your bank account details, impersonating you on social media forums, or sending SMSs and emails from your smart phone, is too big a risk to take.

The interest in android antivirus and iOS antivirus grows in line with rising malware threats. The fraudsters and malicious people who distribute malware continue to look for new ways to breach mobile phone security. In its report on threats detected in 2014 Trend Media notes how:

“The number of mobile malware has more than doubled in the second half of 2014, just six months after hitting the two million milestone. There are now a total of 4.37 million malicious and high risk apps out there “

Both users of Android and iOS have been identified as “popular attack targets.” In their report they provide additional details of how a “variety of malware and high risk apps continue to attack Android users.”

How Android Phone Antivirus Software Manages Threats

A quality antivirus package should offer an all-embracing security solution that protects the mobile device against malware attacks, provides file backup and restoration, lost or stolen device protection, and excellent technical support. Protection for multiple devices is also important for many users.

Trend Micro has one of the best mobile antivirus systems on the market. The range of malware prevention features they include shows how this battle needs to be managed on a number of fronts:

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Android Antivirus Features offered by Trend

  • Blocking malware from all sites.
    Whenever you download an app, either from the Google Play store or another location, Trend Micro Security for your Android phone will check that there’s nothing nasty attached or inside it.
  • Scanning installed applications.
    Applications already installed on your Android device ought to be regularly scanned. Trend’s software does this. This will help you to detect any malware that might have penetrated the device’s defenses without you realising.
  • Regular mobile antivirus updates.
    With malware creators hard at work to find new ways of breaching Android security, it is vital to have an antivirus that is regularly and automatically updated. Trend’s software is located in the cloud. It is constantly updated by Trend’s team. When you need the latest antivirus ‘fix’, the Trend Micro software you’ve installed will provide it. An advanced solution should be capable of downloading a removal tool to neutralize the particular type of malware detected.
  • Cloud scanning.
    Trend Micro also makes sure that your cloud connections and any information transported to or from the cloud stays secure.

Android Antivirus Benefits

A significant percentage of android users continue to place their trust in the operating system’s defenses. The way people interact with websites online matters too. Whether you have antivirus or not, safe web browsing and downloading practices are common sense measures everyone should take.

While this might have been a fair analysis of the Android security situation up until now, there are no guarantees how long this situation will continue. The statistics show how the number of malware threats grows, and the virus creators are always on the look out for system security lapses. What is a relatively safe practice today might not be so safe in another six months.

A dependable and constantly updated security app could make the critical difference between a secure and exposed mobile device. Protection against data theft due to device loss or theft and other “side benefits” of comprehensive antivirus apps should also be taken into the equation. We recommend Trend Micro.

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Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.