Just like on Personal Computers, there are malicious Apps on Android that contain Spyware, Viruses or other types of Malware. This article will discuss ways to keep Malware off your Android device, and look at the advantages and disadvantages of running Android antivirus software.
There have been over 50 malicious Android apps discovered in the Google Play Store. Fortunately, Google will pull known malware out of the Play Store, but there could be more hiding there. Many of the malicious Apps discovered have names that should make you leery of installing them. For instance:
- Sexy Legs
- Supre Bluetooth Transfer
- Quick Delete Contacts
Installing anything with the name "Sexy" in it is risky, and typos like "Supre" instead of "Super" is another thing to look out for. Unfortunately, some of the names like "Quick Delete Contacts" don't make it sound like malware.
How Dangerous is Android Malware?
What could a malicious App do to your Android phone or Tablet? If you have rooted your device and have granted the malicious App permissions to run as root, then the App could do anything it wants on the phone. For non-rooted Android devices, it depends on what permissions the App requested when you installed it. Here are some examples of what malware could do on your device:
- Send your phone call log out to who knows who.
- Send text messages to premium services that cost you money.
- Record the passwords you enter into applications (e.g. Any financial App you have).
- Record the text messages you send out.
- Send malicious e-mails to all the people in your address book.
- Use your phone/tablet as part of a botnet to attack websites.
- Redirect your web browser to any website the App wants to send you to.
- Use your GPS to see where you've been, and where you are right now.
As you can see, malware can do terrible damage to you.
Avoiding Installing Malware on Your Android Device
So how do you avoid Malware on your Android Phone or Tablet? There are several simple steps you can take that will probably keep you free from malware. The most important thing you can do is to pay careful attention to what Apps you install!
There are a few things you need to look at whenever you want to install a new App on your device.
How many times has the App been installed?
Look on the right side of the Android market to see the numbers. The most popular apps have been installed millions of times. If there was malware in it, at least one of the millions of users would probably have found it.
Who is the developer?
Is it an individual, or a large well-known company. Anything written by Google is pretty safe of course. You can see what else the developer has written by clicking on their name under the App name. If you see a bunch of questionable apps, beware. You can also visit the developer's website by clicking on "Visit Developer's Website" under the App description. Make sure the websites look legit.
What permissions does the App request?
At the top of the App's Google Play Store page is a "PERMISSIONS" tab. Look at the permissions the App is requesting to see if they are appropriate. Sometimes an App will say why it needs permissions in its description, other times it will be obvious. If it looks like the permissions are too aggressive (e.g. A game that needs to read your GPS), then you might want to skip the App.
What do the user reviews say about the App?
Click the "USER REVIEWS" tab at the top of the Google Play Store and see what people are saying about the App. Sometimes people will say that it's asking for unreasonable permissions, or making their Android phone or tablet behave strangely.
Be careful where you install Apps from
The Google Play Store is the safest place to install Apps from since Google polices it well. The Amazon Appstore for Android is also pretty safe. If you're side-loading APK files or installing from smaller websites, the legitimate App you're installing may be infected with a Trojan that will take over your device. Beware of any smaller App stores that aren't backed by a large well-known company.
Apps to Protect Your Android Phone or Tablet
If the information above has scared you about installing Android Apps, then you might want to install an anti-malware App on your Android device to protect it. Two of the most popular Apps to protect your phone or tablet are:
Antivirus Free (FREE) - Protects your phone from viruses, malware, spyware & online exploitation in real-time. It can:
Scan apps, settings, files, and media in real time
Find/locate your lost or stolen phone via Google maps
Lock and wipe your device to protect your privacy
Kill tasks that slow your phone down
Browse the web safely and securely
There's also a Pro version of it for $0.99
Lookout Security and Antivirus (FREE) - Provides Antivirus protection as well as a great "Find My Phone" and backup service. It also has these features:
Antivirus: Block malware, spyware, and trojans
Scan each app you download to make sure it is safe
Schedule daily or weekly scans. Get automatic, over-the-air, protection against the latest threats
The Bottom Line
Although I believe these types of Apps can help protect your Android device, some people believe they are of limited value. The absolute best way to keep your Android phone or tablet safe is to follow the guidelines above and do your homework before installing any App.