Do You Need Antivirus Apps on Android? What About iPhone?
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Everyone knows (or should know, by now) that you need an antivirus package on your computer. There is a lot of nasty malware out there, and you need protection.

But what about your smartphone or tablet? Does your Android phone need an antivirus? What about your iPad? How about a Blackberry or Windows Phone?

The short answer is: Yes! You need some form of security app on your smartphone or tablet. Security vulnerabilities exist for all these devices. But how likely are you to encounter malware and your options for protection depend on the devices you use.

Android Malware and Antivirus

Android app stores, including Google Play, have a tendency toward the lax side of security when screening new apps. Although the introduction of Play Protect and better overall Google Play security has improved the situation, Android-specific malware slips through the security net.

Ransomware is an especially insidious threat, and while the number of consumer attacks is decreasing, ransomware targeting businesses continues to rise. That said, the main issue facing Android devices is credential and data theft, and malvertising. (The Agent Smith malware is a prime example How to Spot and Remove Agent Smith Malware on Android How to Spot and Remove Agent Smith Malware on Android The Agent Smith malware is infecting Android devices across India and Asia and is now spreading to the west. Read More !)

Protecting your Android smartphone or tablet against malware and ransomware could save you a lot of trouble if you download a malicious app. Android is the biggest mobile malware target. Some reports show that over 95% of mobile malware targets the Android operating system.

Fortunately, there are several high-quality Android antivirus and antimalware apps available. The first thing to consider is how effective the Android antivirus is. Head to the AV-Test Android section and check which recently tested apps secure full marks.

At the time of writing, Avast Mobile Security, AVG Antivirus Free, Bitdefender Mobile Security, Kaspersky internet Security, McAfee Mobile Security, Norton Mobile Security, Sophos Mobile Security, and Trend Micro Mobile Security all secure full marks for protection and usability.

av test android may 2019

You can also install apps that provide a firewall for your Android device 6 Android Security Apps You Should Install Today 6 Android Security Apps You Should Install Today Android security apps - capable of blocking malware and phishing attempts - are necessary if you wish to run a safe and secure smartphone. Let's look at some of the best Android security apps currently... Read More , like DroidWall. However, many of these apps require you to root your device, potentially exposing it to a different type of danger. Adding a firewall does give you another layer of protection, but because of the ways criminals attack Android devices, a firewall isn’t totally necessary.

Malvertising is another threat facing Android users What Is Malvertising and How Can You Prevent It? What Is Malvertising and How Can You Prevent It? Malvertising is on the rise! Learn more about what is it, why it's dangerous, and how can you stay safe from this online threat. Read More . The majority of Android antivirus apps now offer some form of malvertising protection due to the increased threat of infection.

You also have to watch out for the security risks posed by your Android phone’s motion sensors 3 Android Motion Sensor Security Risks and How to Stay Safe 3 Android Motion Sensor Security Risks and How to Stay Safe The motion sensors in your smartphone can compromise your security in several ways. Here's how to protect yourself. Read More .

iPhone Malware and Antivirus

You might hear people say you don’t need an antivirus suite or app on macOS or iOS. Those people are wrong. You do need malware protection on macOS, and you do need malware protection on iOS Can iPhones Get Viruses? Here Are the Facts Can iPhones Get Viruses? Here Are the Facts Most people think iPhones can't get viruses, but is that true? Let's look at the cold hard facts. Read More .

The antimalware situation on iPhones is different from Android. Very different, in fact. Apple keeps a much closer watch on the App Store and the iOS app development process. Apple’s “walled garden” approach means you’re less likely to download malware from the App Store.

Apple created iOS from the ground up with security in mind. Full-system scanning apps are not allowed in the App Store. The antivirus apps found in the App Store have limited scanning functionality, focusing instead on securing other vulnerabilities such as malicious attachments or downloads.

Unfortunately, this makes them rather ineffective as antivirus apps. However, because of the low chance you’ll need one, it isn’t a problem.

If you jailbreak your iPhone to download non-App Store-approved apps, you could expose yourself to malware. There is a higher chance of encountering malware if you are downloading apps from a third-party repository. The infamous KeyRaider iPhone malware came from a third-party repository, targeting jailbroken iPhone devices.

Other iPhone malware variants target jailbroken devices because there is a higher chance the device doesn’t have up to date security patches, leaving it vulnerable.

If you’re looking for a good jailbreak antivirus solution, you’re on your own. Independent antivirus testers don’t run tests, and because the big names in antivirus don’t offer full antivirus apps for iOS, it’s tough to know which to trust.

BlackBerry Malware and Antivirus

You can split BlackBerry devices into two camps: those using the official BlackBerry (BB) operating system, and the newer devices using Android. The latter devices run the same risks as set out in the Android section.

Those devices still running BB are potentially vulnerable to malware. BB10 is the latest official BlackBerry operating system. At the time of writing, it has not received an update in five months. Furthermore, support for BB10 will terminate at the end of 2019.

The Chinese company, TCL Communications, manufactures the new generation of BlackBerry. TCL license the BlackBerry Mobile brand name, but all new devices use Android rather than the BB operating system.

So, what does this mean in terms of BlackBerry malware? Well, the number of people using the BB operating system decreases all the time. The number of targets is small, and the cost of attacking a BB is higher. Therefore, it is less profitable to attack BlackBerry devices running BB.

Furthermore, because BB10 malware isn’t an issue in comparison to Android, it doesn’t receive the same testing coverage. Many of the biggest antivirus developers no longer provide a BlackBerry operating system specific product.

Windows 10 Mobile Malware and Antivirus

The successor to Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 10 Mobile carries strong links to the desktop operating system. Windows 10 Mobile accounts for a minute share of the mobile operating system market.

But Windows 10 Mobile will sunset on December 10, 2019. The Windows 10 Mobile Fall Creators Update was the last feature update for the mobile operating system. After the end of support, users should switch to an alternative mobile operating system. The Windows 10 Mobile operating system will become vulnerable in the future as bugs and vulnerabilities are found but remain unpatched.

You Need Antivirus Apps on Your Mobile Devices

As you can see, whether you need an antivirus app comes down to the mobile operating system you use.

If you’re running an Android device, you should use an antivirus app, especially if you’re using an older Android version that receives less frequent updates (if any). Whereas, with iOS, you’re using an altogether more secure operating system. Installing a security tool that scans email attachments and downloads could help you remain secure.

Looking to boost your desktop PC security as well? Check out our recommendations of the best security and antivirus apps and software The Best Computer Security and Antivirus Tools The Best Computer Security and Antivirus Tools Concerned about malware, ransomware, and viruses? Here are the best security and antivirus apps you need to stay protected. Read More !

Explore more about: Antivirus, Malware, Ransomware, Smartphone Security.

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  1. marcellemieux
    August 17, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    I got Comodo..works good,even finds bugs in app,glad i got it.

  2. qt
    August 16, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    so I'm looking to de-gurgle my ph., in EVERY way, find ur website, with a plethora of gurgle ads! pffft.
    anyway the article doesn't de gurgle heart of android, only apps.
    disappointed

  3. Doug
    March 9, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Here in the USA I use Lookout anti-virus and My Backup to back up to local SD card. I have not seen any problems, but that may be because I am slightly paranoid about my digital operations.

  4. MIndy
    August 14, 2017 at 4:59 am

    This stuff happens to me and my husband all the time! Its really creepy. Today I was watching hgtv on the island house and then a couple hours later went on instagram and an add popped up of the specific island house that was on TV!!! I never looked ANYTHING up.
    Another day we went to a kids birthday party and it was 'Trolls' theme and we had no clue what it even was cause we had never seen the movie..... later on our computer we started getting 'trolls' adds and toys pop-ups.
    This happens almost daily with us.

  5. ali lover
    June 17, 2017 at 5:32 am

    Brand items facebook.com/groups/326163704453420/

  6. Anne
    March 30, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Yesterday I realised how blatantly I was being recorded.
    I'm a teacher and I was at my student's house while it occurred.
    During our lesson he was confused about the Medieval Period so I asked him to google it to make the lesson more interesting.
    I had my android smartphone on the desk the whole time.
    Later that day on You Tube a video on Medieval History came up in the suggestions.

    • Dann Albright
      April 22, 2017 at 3:08 pm

      That's weird! Had you used your phone to do any research for the lesson?

    • Patrick
      April 28, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      This is actually something that happens to everyone, although sometimes it's more obvious , maybe depending on subject matter. I am no techy but there is a systemcalled adsense that all android/google platforms have that listens and sees your activity so to better offer you products you may buy out of need or compulsory habit. We all sign
      On for this when we give apps permissions and certainly when we sign on for Google services. Pretty creepy isn't it. We need to pay attention to what we click and accept and we need to make more people aware an then we can all demand much more transparency. Even if the motives aren't Malicious they are far over Reaching. In my opinion we as a society such care more! , before there is nothing to care for.

  7. jummai salihyu abdul
    November 27, 2016 at 9:17 am

    I have been buying goods on aliexpress for about a year now. I change my phone and getting access to it is giving me headache. Please help me out. I have items awaiting payments but can't access them on this phone .

    • Dann Albright
      November 28, 2016 at 2:22 am

      I'd recommend signing in from a computer. That's probably your best bet.

  8. Anonymous
    March 4, 2016 at 4:11 am

    Wow, that chart from av-test.org looks way different from the one I just viewed tonight. Mine has Avast on there, Peter Colpaert, albeit thirteenth on the list. I wonder what's up with that? Why the disparity between these two lists?

    I think I'll try some of the ones higher up the list, because even though I'm using Avast as I have for a few years now, I don't care for the new interface and the fact that they dropped the firewall function ticks me off. Does anyone know a quick and easy chart somewhere that lists features in each app (like firewall)?

    • Anonymous
      March 4, 2016 at 4:12 am

      BTW, I sorted the list for "protection", just as you did, Dann. Oh...great, informative article!

      • Dann Albright
        March 9, 2016 at 3:50 am

        Also, really glad you liked the article. Thanks for reading! :-)

    • Dann Albright
      March 9, 2016 at 3:50 am

      Yeah, those charts can change pretty fast, and the platform that you look at can make a big difference, too. I'm not sure why there are such disparities, but I've noticed it in the past. I'm not sure of anywhere that provides a quick feature list for antivirus apps; that would be really great! If I find anything, I'll be sure to report back.

  9. Hildy J
    March 4, 2016 at 12:38 am

    If you regularly pirate software or movies, download apps from sites you've never heard of, click on links from people you've never heard of, and are awaiting your money from a Nigerian prince, you need an antivirus program. Otherwise, probably not.

    And remember that "free" programs, other than free and open source software (FOSS), all have a way to make money off you. They may push ads or, more troubling, they may sell data about you (and an antivirus program has access to everything you do).

    • Anonymous
      March 6, 2016 at 1:46 am

      If you're talking about desktop Windows, you DEFINITELY need antivirus/antimalware, whether you go to "shady" sites or not. The majority of threats aren't from "shady" websites, they're from sites running WordPress, Drupal, or any number of "CMS" sites; from "worms" and hackers looking into your computer even if you never run a web browser at all, looking for cracks in the computer's security; and looking for people who are only running Windows Defender, which even Microsoft has said is "just enough security to download an antivirus and install it." If you decide to not run an antivirus "because I don't do anything risky"...you're part of the problem; eventually, your computer will be part of the botnets that send spam and perform DDOS attacks on demand.

      • Dann Albright
        March 9, 2016 at 3:49 am

        I don't know a whole lot about desktop Windows, but the fact that so many OSes are going multi-platform could be a big boon for malware developers. If you can use the same piece of software to infect a computer and a phone, you're going to see a lot more opportunities across a wide variety of OSes and platforms. And you're totally right—there are a lot of threats from sites that don't seem like they're risky.

        • Anonymous
          March 9, 2016 at 1:04 pm

          The new "multi-platform" malware (that uses Java to infect *any* device, be it Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android) may just be a proof-of-concept right now, but it's the "wave of the future" - malware developers will be able to infect anything they want.
          Anti-virus and anti-malware isn't just optional any more - you either protect your device, or you're part of the problem: you're going to be infected and turned into a "bot" spreading even more infections around. If you tell yourself "I'm careful, I don't need antivirus," you're just fooling yourself.

        • Dann Albright
          March 11, 2016 at 2:57 am

          Yeah, the multi-platform stuff is kinda' scary. It hasn't started really kicking in yet, but I'm sure it will soon. I totally agree that not protecting your device is asking for trouble. Whether you're visiting questionable sites or not, it's just not a good idea to go unprotected.

    • Dann Albright
      March 9, 2016 at 3:47 am

      I think it's more than downloading apps from sites you've never heard of—it's downloading apps from anywhere other than a regulated app store. Even in those stores, there's a minor risk of getting a malware app. No, it's not common, but it does happen. And if you've rooted your device and are looking around the internet for things you can download, there is a risk. It might be small, but it's there, and it's worth protecting yourself against.

  10. Anonymous
    March 3, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    The only time I've encountered malware on an Android device was from a teenager who had willfully loaded a hacked copy of a game that had the fee for microtransactions removed.. He got it from a torrent site, not even an app store.

    Another part of this narrative is that most Android users don't install all that many apps in the first place. It's actually even somewhat common to talk to users who aren't aware that they CAN install apps. Even fewer know how to get apps from anything other than their device's official app store. I'd say 99% of the ones who do wouldn't be bothered to do it. The only people who really get hosed by that are the ones for whom the official device app store is neither Google nor Amazon, as is the case with some cheap knock-off tablets that just have an unlicensed AOSP build on them rather than fully functional Android.

    Do I think running security software on Android is a waste of CPU cycles and battery life? Do I think this is fear mongering that isn't justified for 99% of Android users? I do. Smartphone malware is about as big an issue for most Android users as the Zika virus is for a geriatric Canadian couple.

    • Dann Albright
      March 9, 2016 at 3:46 am

      Fear mongering for 99% of Android users? I'd say that's quite an exaggeration, but I understand your point. No, it's not for everyone. It's not for the people who don't know that they can install apps on their phones. And it's not for those who know what an unlicensed AOSP build is. It's for a small group of people in the middle, who have an idea of what it's possible to do with their Android phones, but don't know the risks that are involved. For those people, I would recommend security software.

      If you're thinking about AV using up CPU cycles and how pirated games that don't have microtransactions can be torrented, but not safely, this article isn't really for you. But there certainly are a lot of people out there who could, in fact, benefit from this information.

  11. Anonymous
    March 3, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Either you forgot Avast! on the Android overview, or it is so bad that it isn't included.
    Hoping for the former, as I'm a happy user of Avast! since years, both on my Windows PC and on my Android devices.

    • Dann Albright
      March 9, 2016 at 3:41 am

      Avast! wasn't listed on the comparison that I checked, so I left it out. I'm not sure why it wasn't on that list, though—I was curious about that myself. It seems to be a pretty good AV package, and a legitimate defense, so I'm not really sure what's going on there. If I find anything out, though, I'll be sure to let you know!

      • June Fudger
        March 25, 2016 at 8:36 pm

        Avast is an excellent antivirus for Android and Windows. In fact, the Android app has more features than many of the paid apps. I haven't checked any of the reviews lately, but they generally do very well. The Windows version is usually very good too and I recommend it to people who just won't pay for protection. It's definately better than Windows Defender.

        • Dann Albright
          March 29, 2016 at 5:19 pm

          Thanks for the tip! Glad to hear that it works well for you.