Android smartphones and tablets can carry lots of personal data, and they are a lucrative target for hackers and other cybercriminals. When cybercriminals break into your phone, they can steal your data, or worse – use it to steal your identity and commit crimes with it.
Your personal data includes not only your images, videos, and other fun files, but also your passwords, ID, banking information, and whatnot. The risks of this sensitive data getting into the wrong hands are too high to be taken lightly.
While it’s true no matter what you do, you can never be absolutely positive you are 100 percent protected against online risks when you take no measures whatsoever to guard your phone, the question is not if but when you’ll be hacked. In order to minimize the risks, you’d better get a good online security program.
You can’t say there is a single best antivirus program. Sometimes a simple antivirus scanner is all you need, while in other cases, you’d better go with a complete protection solution that includes more advanced stuff, such as device lock, Wi-Fi network security checks, safe banking, VPN, parental control, etc.
Reasons to Use an Antivirus App on Your Android Device
Like Windows, Android is the operating system of the masses, which makes it a lucrative target for cybercriminals.
That’s why we see ever-inventive hacks and cracks in the Android universe.
For instance, not all of the Play Store is safe–even after Google’s ongoing efforts. In fact, play developer accounts sell on the dark web. Here, a cybercriminal buys a developer account and a loader to upload malware which is issued as an update. This developer accounts sell for $60 upwards, and the malware loaders go for $200 and more, as per Kaspersky.
But while Android malware is still rare, especially if you don’t sideload, things can still go wrong for many reasons.
Especially there is little to no protection from phishing scams. These scams trick a user into visiting a rogue link which sends them to legit-looking replicas of banking portals.
People enter their details and get slapped with money-debited messages. In a few cases, users (mostly elderly) have lost their life saving to phishing scams.
Consequently, it’s good to have Antivirus protection. And it’s a whole lot better to have one with internet security.
You might have to try a few antivirus programs before you pick the winner. In order to make it easier for you, here is a list of some of the best software that is particularly good, and you can use them as a starting point in your search for the perfect antivirus app for your Android devices.
Avast Mobile Security, with its over 100 million installs, is one of the best free offers you can find when you are looking for an Android antivirus. It does offer a paid version with many more features, of course, but even the free version provides a decent level of protection.
The free version includes free scans to detect threats and vulnerabilities, the ability to identify malicious apps before you install them, malware check of Web links, and a security check of Wi-Fi networks you join. There are some other perks, such as device location tracking, device locking, wiping of all sensitive data, storage, and battery optimization – all these in the free version.
The paid versions include some features, such as VPN, PIN locks/fingerprint passwords, better antitheft protection, etc.
Malwarebytes is another decent antivirus program to consider. It’s especially useful for getting rid of adware and for preventing ransomware from locking your device. It doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles of Avast Mobile Security, but for the basics, it’s not a bad choice.
Malwarebytes also has a privacy audit option (i.e., tells you if apps are monitoring you). It’s free to clean a device. If you want realtime protection, there are paid plans starting at $39.99 a year.
Similarly to the products from Bitdefender and Norton, F-Secure Mobile Security is a part of a complete package (F-Secure SAFE) that protects you on any device of yours – i.e., mobile, laptop, desktop, etc. They offer a free trial and multiple paid options to choose from.
All paid plans are for a year, and you choose what you want to protect – i.e., the type of devices (PCs only, smartphones, tablets, etc.) and their number (1 PC, 3, 5, or up to 7 devices, etc.). You can also choose which features to purchase – i.e., total protection, VPN only, etc.
As for features, these depend on the plan you want to purchase. Features include protection against viruses, spyware, and hacker attacks, as well as ID theft, call, and message blocking, safe online banking, and protection against malicious apps. For smartphones and tablets, you have the option to lock or locate the device remotely, or if it gets stolen, you can remotely erase your data.
Protect your Android smartphones or tablets from 20,000+ malware and viruses by using VIPRE Android Security. This sophisticated antivirus can keep hackers at bay while helping you find your lost device and secure it.
With on-demand and on-install scanning features, this antivirus protects your devices along with its data from malicious applications. They constantly update the scanner with the latest security patches and offer automatic scanning for applications upon installation immediately.
It is endowed with web protection to identify malicious activities to provide a safer browsing experience on a majority of browsers. Anti-theft features can geo-locate, lock, and notify your device from internet-powered devices.
VIPRE has an autopilot feature that works like your security advisor. It provides you with complete information on the security status of your devices so you can stay alert. For email privacy, it is possible to check whether your email address or its details are safe or not.
With Smart unlock, you can access all your applications directly by disabling your PIN while using Wi-Fi from a trusted source. Add an extra layer of protection with fingerprint sensor support included in the app.
What’s more – the antivirus comes with a PIN timeout feature. When anyone tries to access any of your applications with PIN protection, it displays a 30-second timeout on five consecutive unsuccessful attempts. Also, if anyone tampers with your device without your knowledge, your smartphone will snap a picture of that person.
Its price is $15.99 for one year, one device.
One of the most popular free antivirus apps for Android is AVG AntiVirus for Android – it boasts over 100 million downloads on Google Play. The Antivirus and the Antitheft modules are free, while the rest of the package (i.e., App Lock for files and apps, Camera Trap, and Device Lock) come with a 14-day free trial.
If you are a fan of things made in Germany, then you might want to start your search for an antivirus with Avira Antivirus Security for Android. Its free version offers protection against spyware, adware, and banking trojans, as well as ransomware. The antitheft module is also free. It includes standard functionality, such as pinpoint a lost phone on a map, remotely lock it and remotely wipe out its contents, if you believe it’s lost for good.
The premium features include the option to lock your camera and microphone, block phishing sites, and use a PIN code to lock sensitive apps.
Bitdefender is one of the biggest security companies not only in the Android segment of the market, and this is why the Bitdefender Mobile Security is one very complete security solution.
In addition to free scans, the remote device locates, lock, and wipe of data, it comes with some not so standard features, such as secure VPN (premium) and Account Privacy (a feature that monitors if your email account has been compromised). Also, they claim their software is light on resources and doesn’t drain your battery.
With its reported 1 Million + installs, Comodo Mobile Security isn’t as popular as Avast or AVG, but still, it has managed to get noticed by users. Comodo Mobile Security is more than an antivirus. In addition to its high-performance malware engine, it also offers VPN and firewall, as well as ID Protection, Safe Browsing, and AppLock.
ESET® Mobile Security for Android comes in two flavors – free and paid. The free version doesn’t offer more than realtime scanning, remote lock, and remote siren. The paid version costs $14.99 and includes features, such as App Lock, Anti-Phishing, and Anti-Theft. You can’t say there is something exceptional about these features, but if all you need is free antivirus scans, this app offers this.
Chili Security isn’t as popular as some of the other names on this list, but their offer is good, and this is why it makes sense to include it. They offer two pricing plans: EUR 5.00 per month for one device or EUR 11.00 per month for an unlimited number of devices. This is a bargain if you have numerous devices because, in this case, the price per device is low. Fo one or two devices, the savings are unsubstantial to none.
In terms of features, Netbank protection (i.e., extra protection for your online banking activities) and the two-way firewall are worth mentioning. Needless to say, they do offer the standard features, such as antivirus scans and automatic updates, as well as parental control.
Finally, let’s not forget the good old Norton and its Norton Mobile Security for Android. Don’t expect to find in it extraordinary features you won’t find elsewhere; rather, regard it as just one more alternative to consider. If you have already purchased Norton 360 Deluxe or Norton 360 Premium, you already have the mobile protection at your disposal; if not – you will need to buy it separately.
Norton Mobile Security comes with an App Advisor (the main module that takes care of malware, ransomware, adware, and privacy leaks), Spam and Fraud Call Alerts, Wi-Fi Security, Web Protection, and Device Security.
Can I rely on built-in Android security, or should I use an antivirus app as well?
A good antivirus not only gives on-device security but internet protection as well. This makes it better than the present status of built-in Android security protocols. So yes, having a dedicated antivirus solution is beneficial and more trustworthy.
Are free Android antivirus apps worth it?
Free antivirus is better than having no antivirus. That being said, free (security) products can be dangerous themselves. They might be making money from you in ways you wouldn’t approve of. Ultimately, getting a good paid antivirus has no equal.
Will adding an antivirus app to my Android phone make it run slower?
It depends on the application at hand. But generally, yes. An antivirus runs real-time background scans and can feel like slowing your Android down a bit. However, it keeps your system free from malware, which can hurt performance and security more than anything.
How often should I run a scan for viruses?
There is no fixed number. And typically, modern antivirus programs with real-time protection are set and forget things. They alert you in case of need and don’t need your intervention otherwise. But if it matters to you much, run a full-scan scan weekly, if not daily.
On this list, I tried to include the best free and paid Android Antivirus. There is no need to try them all, though you might have to try a few before you pick the one to go with. Once you pick a service that’s good enough for you, stick with it and make sure it’s at all times updated to the latest database of threats because if it isn’t, you are not getting the adequate protection you need.