If you think that viruses only affect Windows laptops and PCs you’d be wrong. In fact, Android malware is increasing at an alarming rate.
Cybercriminals are coming up with ever-more inventive ways to hack your devices and – ultimately – steal your identify, money and more.
The good news is that running a top-notch antivirus app on your Android phone (or tablet) will help a lot to prevent these nasties from getting anywhere near your device.
Below, you find our pick of the best antivirus apps for Android, but note that they are often just one part of a subscription that will also protect other devices you own such as the Windows laptops and PCs we mentioned earlier as well as Macs.
When choosing and looking at the yearly prices do remember that protecting five devices, say, makes a subscription very affordable when you consider the per-device cost.
Some of the options are completely free, so cost doesn’t come into it, so if you’re looking for separate protection for your PC, read our roundup of the best antivirus software.
Kaspersky Small Office Security
Bitdefender Mobile Security
Available with a 14 day free trial, Bitdefender Mobile Security managed a perfect score in both real-time malware and discovery of malware on Android platforms in AV-Test’s latest report, and not for the first time.
It’s also one of the top picks in our best Windows antivirus chart, and if you sign up to the Total Security package that (at the time of writing) costs £35/$44.99 you’ll get coverage for up to five devices, including a PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone or tablet.
If you prefer you can protect just one Android phone for £9.99 / $14.99.
The Mobile Security app has anti-theft features that enable you to locate your device, lock it, send a message, or in the worst case scenarios you can completely wipe the data remotely. It also works with Android wearable devices, gives you web security alongside a privacy advisor, has a very effective malware scanner, plus there’s a VPN service included to give extra protection when browsing the web, particularly when using free Wi-Fi.
There are a few limitations, in that it doesn’t to block calls, back up data or have any parental controls, but for everything else it’s an excellent package.
Norton Mobile Security
Another excellent choice is Norton Mobile Security. Like Bitdefender Mobile Security, it scored 100% in AV-Test’s latest report, and costs £9.99/$14.99 per year for a 3-device plan – better value than Bitdefender if you have three Android phones in your family.
Of course, you can also get Android protection as part of Norton’s 360 subscription which is currently £29.99/$49.99, covers five devices gives you 50GB of cloud storage and parental controls. This is great value, especially as the PC version currently sits on top of our Best Windows Antivirus app chart.
As well as malware protection you get controls to safeguard your online privacy, constant scanning to determine whether the network you’re using is under attack, lost or stolen device recovery, warnings of apps with intrusive ads or heavy battery use, plus a call-blocking feature to stop unwanted conversation.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Android
Kaspersky is another well-known Windows antivirus name which offers great mobile antivirus too. It scored 100% (6 out of 6) in AV-Test’s latest report for protection, performance and usability.
The free version offers the antivirus protection, as well as anti-theft technology to remote wipe the device locate the missing handset.
If you move up to the Premium tier (costing £9.99/$19.99 per year) then you’ll also have access to the App Lock feature that enables you to protect certain apps (messages, photos, notes, etc) with a passcode so no one can access the data. There’s also anti-phishing protection, a web filter, and real-time antivirus scanning.
Alternatively, the Kaspersky Total Security suite covers three devices in the UK for £49.99 or five devices in the UK and USA for £59.99/$99.99, including your mobile devices, PC or Mac. At the time of writing there was a Summer Sale event offering 50% off those prices.
McAfee Mobile Security
McAfee’s Mobile Security app scored 100% in AV-Test’s latest report, making it a solid option if you’re looking for a free way to secure your Android device.
It includes the usual antivirus features such as protecting against viruses, spyware and malicious sites or apps, but also adds anti-theft features, performance boosting tools and a battery optimizer, and privacy tools that let you limit information apps are collecting from you.
Should you want even more then there is the Total Protection 2020 package (which costs £393.99/$39.99 per year) and adds a VPN, Guest mode that lets you restrict which apps and data are open to other users, App lock, and removal of ads. It covers up to 10 devices, too.
Avira Antivirus 2020
This free app offers a huge amount of protection and features. Achieving perfect scores in AV-Test’s latest report, Avira Antivirus offers reassuring security despite it not costing you anything.
Out of the gate you get top-tier antivirus protection, plus there’s also an active guard against ransomware. The app also has privacy and identity protection to stop hackers taking over your persona, and anti-theft tools to prevent any damage if someone does manage to steal your device.
Invest in the Pro version for £6.99/$11.99 per year and you’ll unlock security features that prevent your phone’s microphone or camera being accessed, advanced anti-phishing protection, app locking, and customer support.
Free is very good, but the Pro option is good value for money too.
Avast Mobile Security
Avast’s Mobile Security app for Android is completely free, and while it has managed almost perfect scores in the past, it didn’t do as well in the latest AV-Test report. It only scored 4 out of 6 for performance so while it offers excellent virus protection, it generated too much internet traffic compared to its rivals.
Features include app locking, call blocking, app permissions, firewall, a photo vault to keep your pictures secure behind a passcode, VPN, junk cleaner and RAM booster to improve performance, and of course regularly updated malware and antivirus scanners to protect your device.
AVG Antivirus Free
AVG and Avast are owned by the same company so it’s not surprising that they use the same tech in the background and therefore performed the same in AV-Test’s latest report.
AVG provides the standard antivirus and malware protection you’d expect, along with anti-theft features that allow you to track the location of the device, lock it, and then trigger an alarm at full volume. There are also tools for improving the performance of your device, passcode protection for accessing your photos, and several other useful bits and pieces.
The downside here is that, if you want additional features such as App Lock, Camera Trap, Device Lock and App Backup you’ll need to get the Pro version. There’s a 30-day free trial though, so you can see whether they’re really necessary or not.
Does Android need antivirus?
Unlike Apple devices, which only allow downloads from the iOS App Store to protect users from bogus apps, Android lets you install APK files (which are apps) from any source once you change a simple setting in your phone’s Settings app. Downloading apps from unknown sources isn’t generally a great idea as they could be infected with viruses and malware.
There is also a less-strict approval process for the Google Play Store than Apple’s App Store, and it’s no secret that apps infected with malware can appear on the Store from time to time.
Phishing emails and dodgy messages and adverts are important to look out for too, but good antivirus software will warn you of these and potentially dangerous websites.
For testing how effective antivirus apps are, which is a specialist and extremely time-consuming process, we use the results from well-know security software test labs AV-Test and AV-Comparatives. They constantly test these apps for protection, performance and usability.
In addition to virus protection, these Android apps might have additional features such as anti-theft to allow you to lock and/or wipe data from a stolen handset, or even take photos or audio recordings of the thieves.
Another useful feature commonly found in security apps for Android is call blocking. If your phone is constantly plagued by nuisance calls or spam texts, you might be able to block the callers so that they don’t interrupt your day.
Some apps include schedulers in their call-blocking facilities, so you can divert all calls from the office to voicemail at evenings and weekends, for example.
Some suites also include app managers that allow you to password protect access to the web browser – invaluable for parents who routinely hand their phone over to children to play games and worry that they might stumble onto something they shouldn’t, or run up horrendous bills by purchasing apps.
Less useful are backup facilities found in many of these suites. Some merely back up contacts, which is generally already supported when you sign in with your Google account on an Android or iOS device. Others offer a tiny amount of space for storing your photos and files, while others are a lot more generous with cloud storage.
So in answer to the original question above, yes, it’s a good idea to run an antivirus app on an Android phone. We also have a more detailed analysis on the do you need antivirus on Android? debate.
As you can already see from the apps listed above, there’s plenty of choice when it comes to antivirus apps on Android. Obviously, it’s important to make sure you’re getting an app you trust, because tests carried out by AV-Comparatives found that less than a third of all Android antivirus apps actually work. The site tested 250 apps and found that only 80 of them managed to detect at least 30% of malicious apps without any false alarms. And antivirus software which doesn’t work properly is of no value.
While an app can provide a good level or protection from malicious software, hackers are often reliant on users to make mistakes or be fooled into installing the malware themselves without realising what they’re doing. With this in mind, here are tips on how to protect yourself online and 8 ways to protect yourself from cybercrime so that you don’t make it easy for those who would seek to do you harm.
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