Does mobile antivirus software actually protect Android?

Does mobile antivirus software actually protect Android?

It seems like a new story about Android security problems gets released every day. It’s not like Android is an operating system with thousands of security holes. Instead, it’s used by so many millions of people around the world that hackers have a lot to gain by targeting Android users with viruses and malware.

Even if one Android user out of every 10,000 falls for a scam or virus, hackers can still target a significant number of people. But today, Android users are becoming better protected thanks to the prolific use of mobile antivirus software.

Or are they?

Despite claims that Android antivirus software improves the security of your smartphone or tablet, some people claim that some Android antivirus software is virtually useless.

Why is some Android antivirus software bad?

The problem with many Android antivirus programs is that they use signature-based tracking to identify viruses and malware. Signature-based tracking went out of style years ago among PC antivirus software companies because hackers kept finding ways around it. With signature-based defense, the antivirus software relies on a database of virus “signatures” and then protects users when it identifies that signature running on their computer.

Today, good antivirus software uses behavior-based tracking, where the software looks at what each program is trying to do as opposed to relying on a set database. This makes it much more difficult for hackers to get around antivirus filters and infect smartphones or tablets.

Android rooting could be the answer

According to this article, Android antivirus software companies aren’t using antiquated methods for no reason. Instead, they’re forced to use signature-based antivirus tracking because any other type of tracking would require root access to the system.

So, when a virus tries to modify core system files or affect other vital parts of the Android device, existing antivirus software can’t recognize that because it isn’t able to access the ‘root’ of the system. In other words, rooting Android could be the answer to Android’s security problems.

As a result, leading Android antivirus companies offer rooted versions of their apps that are more powerful than the non-rooted versions. For example, companies like Avast have added a firewall function into the rooted version of their app.

How to protect yourself

Whether your Android is rooted or un-rooted, there are a number of things you can do to stay protected. Most viruses attack Android (and other mobile operating systems) through the installation of apps. Avoid downloading brand new apps that haven’t been reviewed by a large number of people, and make sure you download apps only from trusted companies.

You should also be careful when using Wi-Fi networks. Mobile versions of websites aren’t always secure (there might not be an https in front of the URL), which means that the data you’re sending and receiving is un-encrypted and it could be stolen by someone with the right tools monitoring that same mobile network.

Finally, run good antivirus software. If possible, root your phone and then install antivirus software like Avast Mobile Security that give rooted additional capabilities to rooted users.

So does mobile antivirus software really protect Android?

Signature-based antivirus software kept PC users protected for years. Today, it may seem antiquated, but it still fends off most virus threats. And, since Android antivirus companies update their software regularly, the signature database is kept as up-to-date as possible, which enhances the level of protection.

So yes, existing Android antivirus software does an adequate job of protecting your system. No antivirus software can claim to be 100% effective, and that rule remains true for Android devices. And until we get good behavior-based antivirus programs for Android, security on our favorite mobile operating system will always be an issue.