September 21, 2012

Why Bloggers Say Android Antivirus Apps Are Useless

If you search “android antivirus” on Google you can find a lively debate on the necessity and efficacy of protecting your mobile phone from viruses with an antivirus app. We’re here with some good news: technically, viruses don’t exist on Android! A virus is a piece of software that can copy itself and automatically spread to other devices, and this kind of replication is not possible on the Android operating system. Thank goodness. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need an “antivirus” app.

The word virus has stuck in the popular lexicon as a common term for all malicious software. For most people, it’s simpler to use a generic term like “virus” rather than memorizing the nuances of a trojan, worm, rootkit, malware, adware or spyware. They’re all bad, and some types of malware do threaten Android devices. So if you see Lookout use terms like “cell phone virus” or “Android antivirus app,” it’s because that’s what people understand and search for when they want to protect themselves. In fact, Google Insights shows that people search much more often for “Android virus” than for “Android malware.” We’re not trying to mislead anyone here, we’re just trying to keep folks informed.

On Android and other mobile operating systems, users can unknowingly download malware-infected apps from an app store, the web, or even from email attachments. Once installed on your phone, Android malware can steal personal information, place charges on your mobile account, track your location and activity or hijack your phone. No, it can’t replicate itself and jump to another device – but you certainly don’t want it on your smartphone.

So yes, there is a growing amount of Android malware out there that you should avoid at all costs. (We even did a report about it.) The good news is that it doesn’t cost anything to avoid it – just download Lookout Android Security + Antivirus for free today. Lookout will immediately scan your Android smartphone or tablet for malware, and then examine every app you download from this day forward. The same free app can also back up your personal contacts and locate your phone on a map if it is lost or stolen. And we think that’s the opposite of useless.

One comment
  1. Vess says:

    I wouldn’t go as far as to claim that viruses are impossible for Android…

    True, parasitic viruses (that infect existing apps) are fairly difficult to make, because they would have to re-sign the infected package on the device. However, a self-contained worm that spreads as a stand-alone app and doesn’t infect other apps seems perfectly possible to me; in fact I’m surprised that we haven’t seen one already.

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