Do you need an­tivirus on an An­droid de­vice?

If An­droid is as safe as Google says, does your phone or tablet re­ally need an­tivirus soft­ware? MARIE BLACK re­ports

Android Advisor - - Contents -

For years now we’ve been drilling into read­ers’ minds the im­por­tance of an­tivirus soft­ware, but times are chang­ing and whereas pre­vi­ously many of their com­put­ing tasks took place on a desk­top sys­tem they now take place on a phone or tablet.

An­droid viruses have hit the head­lines be­fore, lead­ing users to think in­stalling some sort of se­cu­rity soft­ware is a good idea. And it goes al­most with­out

say­ing: the more pop­u­lar An­droid be­comes the more of a tar­get it is for the bad guys. But do you re­ally need to in­stall a re­source- and bat­tery-hog­ging an­tivirus app on your phone that is go­ing to plague you with ir­ri­tat­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tions?

In al­most all cases, An­droid phones and tablets do not need an­tivirus in­stalled. An­droid viruses are by no means as preva­lent as me­dia out­lets may have you be­lieve, and your de­vice is much more at risk of theft than it is a virus. But it is true: An­droid viruses do ex­ist.

The vast ma­jor­ity of known An­droid viruses have been in­stalled on the back of du­bi­ous apps – apps you will no longer find in the Google Play store. By de­fault An­droid does not al­low you to in­stall apps from other sources, so there’s no chance of you ac­ci­den­tally in­stalling some­thing ne­far­i­ous.

Sup­pos­ing a dodgy app does find its way into the Google Play mar­ket, Google will quickly pull the app and unin­stall it from your de­vice. But what if it comes back? Sy­man­tec has found at least seven ma­li­cious apps on the US Play Store that were pulled and then reap­peared un­der new devel­op­ers with new names.

If you are in­stalling apps out­side of Google Play, in­stalling an An­droid an­tivirus app is one way to keep your­self safe. False-pos­i­tive re­sults are com­mon with such apps, how­ever, so you may find your AV app re­ports an app as dodgy when it’s ac­tu­ally harm­less. In th­ese cases, tak­ing other pre­cau­tions can be a more ap­peal­ing way to safe­guard your de­vice from An­droid viruses.

Such pre­cau­tions range from care­fully check­ing any re­quested per­mis­sions be­fore agree­ing to them,

avoid­ing cloned apps and keep­ing An­droid up to date (with all se­cu­rity patches ap­plied).

Un­for­tu­nately, it turns out that even if you up­date your An­droid de­vice, it may not be as up to date as you think. Se­cu­rity Re­search Labs has pub­lished the re­sults of an in-depth study in which it claims sev­eral big-name ven­dors are guilty of say­ing they’ve rolled out im­por­tant patches when they haven’t.

The worst of­fend­ers on its list are Alps, TCL, Oppo and ZTE, which it says have missed four or more crit­i­cal and high sever­ity patches on the claimed patch date. With two to four misses are HTC, Black­Berry, Asus, Fair­phone, LG, Huawei and Len­ovo. With one or two are OnePlus, Wiko, Xiaomi, Nokia, Mo­torola and Honor. Those in the good books with ei­ther

zero or just one missed patch are Google, ZUK, LeEco, Sam­sung, Sony and BQ.

You should also keep your wits about you, and ap­ply a healthy dose of com­mon sense. You wouldn’t click on an at­tach­ment in a dodgy email from a sender you don’t rec­og­nize on your PC or lap­top, and we hope you would ap­ply that same think­ing to sus­pi­cious links sent in Gmail on your phone or via What­sApp or Face­book Mes­sen­ger. Typ­i­cally, th­ese type of links are as­so­ci­ated with phish­ing scams, but that doesn’t mean they won’t in­stall a virus on your de­vice.

(In­ci­den­tally, if you find your Face­book or email ac­count has been send­ing th­ese sort of mes­sages to your contacts you should im­me­di­ately change your pass­words, and prefer­ably con­tact those peo­ple and warn them to ig­nore it.)

Sup­pos­ing your An­droid phone or tablet does start act­ing oddly and you have rea­son to be­lieve mal­ware is at play: a fac­tory re­set is all that’s re­quired to get it back to nor­mal (one rea­son why it’s a good idea to al­ways back up An­droid). But if you don’t fancy wip­ing your de­vice we have also is­sued some handy tips on how to re­move an An­droid virus.

In many cases users re­port to us that they are see­ing sus­pi­cious pop-up ads in their browser, or they are be­ing redi­rected to a dif­fer­ent home page to that which they con­fig­ured in the set­tings. Our usual ad­vice is to clear out the browser’s data cache (in Set­tings > Apps > Chrome > Stor­age). You can also read more about how to block pop-up ads in An­droid. It’s worth point­ing out that an­tivirus apps for An­droid

of­ten have other use­ful ben­e­fits, such as the abil­ity to re­motely lock or wipe a lost or stolen phone, or backup and cleanup tools. All th­ese tools are avail­able else­where – usu­ally via free apps – but for ease of use it can help to have ev­ery­thing in one place.

Avoid dodgy An­droid an­tivirus apps

Just be­fore Christ­mas we learned of the Loapi tro­jan, which was spread­ing it­self through ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns un­der the guise of an­tivirus so­lu­tions or apps. It’s aw­ful to think that an app you in­stall to pro­tect your­self is ac­tu­ally go­ing to do the op­po­site, but one of the ways in which Loapi works is by putting such a heavy work­load on the phone that it causes the bat­tery to over­heat, de­stroy­ing the de­vice.

Loapi can also send out text mes­sages on your be­half, sub­scribe you to paid ser­vices with­out your knowl­edge, al­low at­tack­ers to ex­e­cute HTTP re­quests for DDoS at­tacks, and mine the cryp­tocur­rency Monero.

Loapi prevents a user from unin­stalling it by block­ing the screen and clos­ing the win­dow when you try to re­move its ad­min rights. It will also prompt you to re­move other se­cu­rity apps that might be able to de­tect and re­move it, and keep has­sling you about it un­til you give in.

You don’t need an an­tivirus app in­stalled to pro­tect you from Loapi, but it may help you to de­tect its pres­ence. Other things you should do in­clude dis­abling the abil­ity to in­stall apps from un­known sources, and keep your op­er­at­ing sys­tem up to date.

Make sure that you keep your An­droid de­vice up to date

Be very care­ful where you down­load apps from

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