Do you really need Anti-Virus Software on your Android smartphone?

Android Phone” (CC BY 2.0) by microsiervos

The connected age has opened up endless possibilities, just as smartphones have put those possibilities into the palm of our hands. And, with every piece of technology hooked up to the internet, there is the opportunity for nefarious hackers to wield their malicious intent.

But, while the dangers around internet security and, by extension, the security of our Android smartphones, is an important consideration whenever we’re online, the chances of any Android devices being hacked are minimal.

Indeed, Google’s own statistics noted just 0.5% of active Android devices may have a malware problem, with Google’s Android Security Chief, Adrian Ludwig, once declaring 99% of users would get no benefit from anti-virus software.

Joel Snyder, Ph.D., a senior IT consultant with 30 years of practice, wrote in a piece for manufacturer Samsung that a well-managed Android device would not come into contact with malware very often. And, if it did, common sense, not anti-virus software, would offer the best protection.

That’s because, thanks to our experiences on desktop computers, users are more aware of being careful not to open email attachments from unknown sources, for example. Other good practices on the smartphone include avoiding public-access Wi-Fi (or using a VPN to access them), only downloading apps from the Google Play Store, and deleting texts and images from unknown sources.

CeBIT-2014-Cyber-Security-7357” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by CEBIT AUSTRALIA

In fact, Android devices are most at risk from infected applications. This can be avoided by sticking to trusted sources. Google also removes any suspicious or problematic apps from its store, deleting them from your phone too if an infection is detected.

If it’s the apps that are the problem, then it’s the developers who are tasked with ensuring their security. Any business hoping to capture a slice of the market through the Google Play Store must ensure it has the right measures in place to prevent malicious activity and protect its apps from attack. They are more vulnerable – not the end user.

Web applications and web servers are prime targets for cyber attacks such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS). Developers traditionally use a number of measures to protect applications by designing in better security while securing their networks via vulnerability scanning, investing in developer security training, ongoing monitoring and a web application firewall.

But that’s fine as long as a security breach doesn’t get through. If it does, or you’ve been infected by accidentally clicking on an infected email attachment, then there are anti-virus and anti-malware programmes available for Android devices to solve the problem.

They’re more crucial if you download apps from outside Google’s own store but false positives are a persistent problem with warning messages for perfectly clean apps. As a result, other precautions such as checking permissions, avoiding cloned apps, and ensuring you’re up to date with Android security patches are a must.

Crucially, only a small number of Android users are affected by viruses or malware. While they exist, common sense will prevent them from infecting your device, with such precautions being preferable to battery-sapping virus software.