In terms of numbers, Android is easily the world’s most popular operating system for mobile devices. This makes it an obvious target for malware creators. That means that all Android devices need to be protected by an antivirus. All means all, even the budget-friendly devices. At the end of the day, it’s not really your device you’re protecting, it’s your personal data (and the personal data of all the contacts in your device). The good news is that you can get great antivirus apps for Android for absolutely free. Here are some tips as to how to do it.
First of all, check which antivirus products actually work with your device
If you’re using Android 6, 7, or 8 then you can probably skip this step. If you’re using Android 9 or 10, then it’s worth double-checking, just to be on the safe side. If you’re using anything up to and including Android 5, then you really need to check. In fact, if you’re using Android 1, 2 or 3 then upgrading may be your only option. You can still recycle your phone for parts. If you’re on Android 4 or 5, you should still have a decent number of options, but should probably think about upgrading soon.
Only look at products which are available on the Google Play store. This means that they have undergone some degree of checking by Google. The protection isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely better than nothing.
Secondly, check when the product was last updated
One of the big plus points about the Google Play store is that it shows you when an app was last updated. In general, you want to be very careful about downloading apps which haven’t been updated in a while. It’s a strong hint the developer behind them isn’t taking security very seriously. This goes at least double for antivirus apps. Not only is new malware being created all the time, new forms of malware are also being created periodically. It is therefore super-important that security companies are on the ball when it comes to pushing out updates.
If your device has a SIM, check for protection against USSD attacks and spam calls and texts
Mostly, this will apply to Android cellphones, but some tablets also use SIMs. Basically if you have a tablet which supports mobile data (rather than just WiFi) then it uses a SIM and this applies.
USSD attacks are attacks which exploit security weaknesses in your cell network rather than in the Android operating system. Basically they trick your device into thinking your cell network is sending it instructions.
Spam calls and text are a security threat as they can be used by fraudsters. The more of them you see, the more likely it is that you’ll wind up dealing with a fraudster and the more fraudsters target you, the more likely it is that you’ll eventually fall victim to one of them.
Thirdly, look for browsing protection
These days, it’s increasingly common for people to do most of their casual internet surfing from mobile devices. This is particularly true of tablets, but people often do quite a bit of browsing from regular cellphones. You need to be protected for exactly the same reasons as you need to be protected on a regular computer.
In particular, look for protection against adverts, pop-up and otherwise. Adverts may power much of the free internet, but they also power a strategy known as “malvertising”. Basically this means using adverts to transmit malware. The more adverts you see, the more exposed you are to this strategy.
Fourthly, look for performance-enhancing options
These are particularly important for lower-specced Android devices, but can be useful even with premium Android devices. Essentially all apps will generate some kind of payload on the host device. The extent of the payload will depend on the nature of the app. That’s why app developers tend to state minimum requirements to run their products. Good antivirus apps for Android will try to counterbalance their payload, buy optimizing the device’s settings for maximum performance. They will also allow you to schedule resource-intensive tasks such as deep-level scans.
Fifthly, check the brand behind the app
Some “free antivirus apps for Android” are just malware in disguise. Many serve up ludicrous numbers of adverts in return for a very small amount of functionality. This is even if they say they block adverts (their own presumably don’t count). A few, however, are packed full of functionality. For example, you can head to this page right now and download Comodo antivirus for Android and get top-quality protection totally for free!
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