Android viruses have hit the headlines before, leading users to think installing some sort of security software is a good idea. And it goes almost without saying: the more popular Android becomes the more of a target it is for the bad guys.

According to figures from our sister company IDC in its smartphone market share report, Android has a market share of around 87 percent, with iOS running on less than 14 percent of mobile devices worldwide. So it's no wonder that the criminals are going after Android users.

But do you really need to install an antivirus app on your phone that is going to drain your battery and bombard you with irritating notifications?

Android viruses are by no means as prevalent as media outlets may have you believe, and your device is much more at risk of theft than it is a virus. But it is true: Android viruses do exist, and a decent antivirus app can provide peace of mind.

The vast majority of known Android viruses are installed on the back of dubious apps - most of which you will no longer find in the Google Play store. By default Android does not allow you to install apps from other sources, so there's no chance of you accidentally installing something nefarious.

If a dodgy app does find its way into the Google Play market, Google will pull the app and uninstall it from your device. 

But that's far from a perfect solution. Recently, Eset researchers found fake Android apps on the Google Play store posing as cheats for popular games but in fact were riddled with malware, managing to avoid detection by Google's Bouncer technology.

The risk increases exponentially if you install apps outside of the Google Play store, so running an Android antivirus app is one way to keep yourself safe. Our pick of the best is Bitdefender.

The worst thing you can do, however, is to assume you are protected by an antivirus app and drop your guard. Research by AVComparatives found that two-thirds of the 250 Android antivirus apps it tested do not actually work.

So it will pay to be picky about which vendor you trust with your device security. Bitdefender, Kaspersky, McAfee, Avast, AVG, Trend Micro and Symantec all performed well in the research.

Even with the best antivirus apps, though, there is a chance of false-positive results. This means you may find your AV app reports an app as dodgy when it's actually harmless. In these cases, taking other precautions can be a more appealing way to safeguard your device from Android viruses.

Such precautions range from carefully checking any requested permissions before agreeing to them, avoiding cloned apps and keeping Android up to date (with all security patches applied).

The problem, though, is that phone manufacturers often stop providing security updates for Android and a recent study by Which? found that 40 percent of Android users worldwide had phones which no longer received security updates. With virtually all users unaware of security updates - or lack thereof - this is a big problem - it affects a billion handsets, and it's why antivirus software for Android is a good idea.

You should also keep your wits about you, and apply a healthy dose of common sense. You wouldn't click on an attachment in a dodgy email from a sender you don't recognise on your PC or laptop, and we hope you would apply that same thinking to suspicious links sent in Gmail on your phone or via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Typically, these type of links are associated with phishing scams, but that doesn't mean they won't install a virus on your device.

Supposing your Android phone or tablet does start acting oddly and you have reason to believe malware is at play: a factory reset is all that's required to get it back to normal (one reason why it's a good idea to always back up Android). But if you don't fancy wiping your device we have some handy tips on how to remove an Android virus.

In many cases users report to us that they are seeing suspicious pop-up ads in their browser, or they are being redirected to a different home page to that which they configured in the settings. Our usual advice is to clear out the browser's data cache (in Settings > Apps & Notifications > Chrome > Storage > Clear Cache). You can also read more about how to block pop-up ads in Android.

It's worth pointing out that antivirus apps for Android often have other useful benefits, such as the ability to remotely lock or wipe a lost or stolen phone, or backup and cleanup tools. All these tools are available elsewhere - usually via free apps or manual administration - but for ease of use it can help to have everything in one place.

Android malware is only going to increase, so it pays to protect your device in any way that you can.