Are Android Antivirus Apps Useless – Should I Install?
Android malware is on the rise. The more user starts using the Android platform; more people start targeting it. According to G-Data Software report, Android malware increased by 40% in 2018.
Researchers count around 11700 new malware samples per day in that year. All these statistics are shocking. The only thing that seems saviour is antivirus, but the question is whether Android antivirus apps are that much effective?
There have been various discussions on the internet that Android antivirus apps are useless. In this article, I will try to conclude, is Android antivirus necessary to protect you from viruses and malware? Let’s first see what damage the android virus could do.
Does Virus on Android Lethal?
Android malware is more lethal than a PC virus. The smartphone contains more personal and confidential information than your computer. It includes pictures and videos and your e-wallet.
Everywhere you go you carry your phone. Spyware could easily catch your location with the GPS; they can even listen to your calls and read your text messages. Such malware could bankrupt you or could extort money in exchange for personal data. It also has been seen that smartphone viruses could even tamper the hardware.
In Dec 2017, Kaspersky Lab discovered Loapi malware that uses the smartphone resources to mine cryptocurrency. In their testing, they find that Loapi increases the load on the CPU in a way that the battery of smartphone bulged and deformed the phone cover.
The outcome of Loapi tells that hackers could develop malware that could even explode the battery in poorly designed smartphones. So, it suggests that we should not take Android viruses lightly.
How Virus Enters in the Android?
Infecting an Android smartphone is not like infecting a computer. There are several ways a virus could enter in PC, but in Android, the only way is through the app. That too an app could not automatically install, the end user has to take action to infect the device. In other words, if you don’t install an app infected with the virus on your Android device, you are safe.
Then the question comes, why someone will install malware on their device? It is because they don’t know that a particular app is malware. Cybercriminals try several tactics to create malware that looks like a legitimate app with some interesting feature or an exciting game. So, users don’t hesitate to install it. They even spread malware in the name of antivirus. Irony, isn’t it?
That’s where an antivirus comes into the picture. The antivirus could tell the user if a particular app is malicious or not. It scans all the apps in the device and detects the malware and also scans the app you are installing.
However, that doesn’t mean, only an antivirus could identify these viruses on the android. If you pay a little attention while trying a new app, you could save yourself from the nasty android viruses. Only install applications from the trusted sources like Play Store, check the permission an app is asking, and read reviews.
What Android Antivirus does and what it doesn’t?
Android antivirus is like another app on your device. It doesn’t work as a desktop antivirus. The Android architecture doesn’t allow apps to access the system files and check everything to detect a virus. However, it can use the permissions available to ensure that the installed applications are safe or not.
Android antivirus apps check the APK file signature in their database and if it matches then that app is flagged as a virus.
An antivirus in the Android device is not allowed to access the system files; it cannot check the RAM usage by other apps. Android antivirus cannot observe the behaviour of an app like a desktop antivirus.
Well, these rules also apply to the viruses; android architecture limits their functions also. However, merely checking the file signature in the database doesn’t mean that the antivirus is full proof. What if the virus is newborn?
Do you need Android Antivirus Apps?
Android security Chief Adrian Ludwig says in 2014, 99% of the users who install antivirus on the Android don’t get benefited. He said, there is certainly no reason that they need to install something in addition to the security we provide.
By additional security, he means, the restricted android architecture, malware scanner in Play Store, permission review of an app.
A Google engineer even labelled Android antivirus companies as charlatans and scammers. Chris DiBona said that antivirus companies are playing on consumer’s fears.
If this is true and android doesn’t need antivirus then why virus attack is rising on this platform? Even their state of the art malware filter is not sufficient. Around half a million users downloaded the malware from the Play Store in a 2018 scam.
Although Google keeps removing bad apps from time to time, they already did the damage. I am not saying their security doesn’t do anything, but that seems to be not enough.
A user who only installs popular apps from the trusted vendor on Play Store is at low risk compared to a user who tries several apps. Checking the developer credibility before downloading an app minimises the risk of virus infection.
I would say that if you are a cautious user, then you could avoid malware on Android without an antivirus. However, if you try different apps from different sources then having an antivirus is beneficial for you.
You should also consider the other features antivirus apps provide like the secure vault, ransomware protection, anti-theft, and anti-keylogger. Such features help you to strengthen overall security.
I would recommend you to only purchase a dedicated anti-malware app like MalwareFox for Android or Bitdefender Total Security which also includes protection for Android in the package. Such antivirus apps are specialised in removing malware and also has several other features.