Just because they don't run Windows, it’s possible to come across viruses and malware on Android phones and tablets. There are, however, antivirus apps available for Android to help ensure your device doesn't get infected. Here, we share our pick of the best antivirus apps for Android.
Bitdefender Mobile Security
Available with a 14 day free trial, Bitdefender Mobile Security managed a perfect score in both real-time malware and discovery of malware on Android platforms during AV-Test's November 2019 test, and not for the first time.
It's also one of the top picks in our best Windows antivirus chart, and if you sign up to the Total Security package that (at the time of writing) costs £35/$44.99 you'll get coverage for up to five devices, including a PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone or tablet.
The Mobile Security app has anti-theft features that enable you to locate your device, lock it, send a message, or in the worst case scenarios you can completely wipe the data remotely. It also works with Android wearable devices, gives you web security alongside a privacy advisor, has a very effective malware scanner, plus there's a free VPN included to give extra protection when using the web, particularly on free Wi-Fi.
There are a few limitations, in that you won't be able to block calls, backup data or have any parental controls, but for everything else it's an excellent package.
Norton Mobile Security
Another popular option is Norton Mobile Security. Like Bitdefender Mobile Security, it scored 100% in AV-Tests latest report, and costs £9.99/$14.99 per year for a 3-device plan.
You'll get your usual antivirus features as well as controls to safeguard your online privacy, constant scanning to determine whether the network you're using is under attack, lost or stolen device recovery, warnings of apps with intrusive ads or heavy battery use, plus a call-blocking feature to stop unwanted conversation.
Alternatively, signing up for the £29.99/$49.99 Norton 360 Deluxe version gets you access to all-round protection for five devices, adding PC and Mac into the mix. This is great value, especially as the PC version currently sits on top of our Best Windows Antivirus app chart.
Sophos Intercept X for Mobile
A top scorer in AV-Test’s latest report, Sophos Intercept X for Mobile is free and includes antivirus features such as app scanning, spam protection, link checking (so you don't tap on anything nasty), multi-factor authentication, and privacy protection that can detect apps that are accessing personal data (your address book and so forth).
Sophos also provides the ability to remotely wipe a device if it's been stolen, a basic password safe to store account details, secure QR scanner to prevent misdirection to bad sites, and an automatic advisor for how you can improve the security of your device.
The fact that an app of this quality and capability is free beggers belief. Obviously a very good option if you don't want to spend any money at all.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Android
Another option worth considering is Kaspersky, which offers great mobile antivirus too. It scored 100 percent in AV-Test for real time detection and 100% for the latest Android malware discovered in the previous 4 weeks.
The free version offers the antivirus protection itself, as well as anti-theft technology to remote wipe the device locate the missing handset.
If you move up to the Premium tier (costing £9.99/$19.99 per year) then you'll also have access to the App Lock feature that enables you to protect certain apps (messages, photos, notes, etc) with a passcode so no one can access the data. There's also anti-phishing protection, a web filter, and real-time antivirus scanning.
Alternatively, the Kaspersky Total Security suite covers three devices in the UK for £34.99 or five devices in the UK and USA for £41.99/$99.99, including your mobile devices, PC or Mac.
Avast Mobile Security
Avast's Mobile Security app for Android is completely free, and again managed almost perfect scores in the latest AV-Test.
Features include app locking, call blocking, app permissions, firewall, a photo vault to keep your pictures secure behind a passcode, VPN, junk cleaner and RAM booster to improve performance, and of course regularly updated malware and antivirus scanners to protect your device.
With over 100 million users, Avast Mobile Security is a tried and tested solution. just watch out for any opt-in user tracking as Avast hasn't been shy of selling on (anonymous) user data in the past.
AVG Antivirus Free
AVG is a free option that managed a near perfect score in the latest tests. AVG and Avast are owned by the same company so it's not surprising that they use the same tech in the background and therefore performed the same.
AVG provides the standard antivirus and malware protection you'd expect, along with anti-theft features that allow you to track the location of the device, lock it, and then trigger an alarm at full volume. There are also tools for improving the performance of your device, passcode protection for accessing your photos, and several other useful bits and pieces.
The downside here is that, if you want additional features such as App Lock, Camera Trap, Device Lock and App Backup you'll need to get the Pro version. There's a 30 days free trial though, so you can see whether they're really necessary or not.
McAfee Mobile Security
McAfee’s Mobile Security app scored just shy of 100% in AV-Test’s latest report, making it a solid option if you’re looking for a free way to secure your Android device.
It includes the usual antivirus features such as protecting against viruses, spyware and malicious sites or apps, but also adds anti-theft features, performance boosting tools and a battery optimizer, and privacy tools that let you limit information apps are collecting from you.
Should you want even more then there is the Premium package (which costs £23.99/$29.99 per year and adds a VPN, Guest mode that lets you restrict which apps and data are open to other users, App lock, and removal of ads.
Avira Antivirus Security for Android
This free app gives users a huge amount of protection and features. Achieving practically perfect scores from AV-Test, Avira Antivirus is a security app that hails from Germany and has already been download over 10 million times from the Google Play Store.
Out of the gate you get top-tier antivirus protection, plus there's also an active guard against ransomeware. The app also has privacy and identity protection to stop hackers taking over your persona, and anti-theft tools to prevent any damage if someone does manage to steal your device.
Invest in the Pro edition for £6.99/$11.99 per year and you'll unlock security features that prevent your phone's microphone or camera being accessed, advanced anti-phishing protection, app locking, and customer support.
Free is very good, but the price of Pro makes it the one we'd recommend.
Does Android need antivirus?
Unlike Apple devices, which only allow downloads from the iOS App Store to protect users from bogus apps, Android will let you install APK files that could be infected with viruses and malware created by cyber criminals.
There is also a less rigid approval process for the Google Play Store, so dangerous apps can make their way onto the store from time-to-time, and even when they've been pulled from Google Play, they can reappear.
Phishing emails and dodgy ads are important to look out for too, so no matter what platform you are on, it’s good to have an antivirus program installed.
Security software test lab AV-Test has millions of different pieces of Android malware in its database - malware that is typically used to steal your valuable personal data from your phone without your knowledge.
In addition to the traditional protection offered by an antivirus app, you might find that the app you choose has features such as anti-theft to allow you to lock and/or wipe data from a stolen handset, or even take photos or audio recordings of the thieves.
Another useful feature commonly found in security apps for Android is call blocking. If your phone is constantly plagued by nuisance calls or spam texts, you might be able to block the callers so that they don’t interrupt your day.
Some apps include schedulers in their call-blocking facilities, so you can divert all calls from the office to voicemail at evenings and weekends, for example.
Some suites also include app managers that allow you to password protect access to the web browser - invaluable for parents who routinely hand their phone over to children to play games and worry that they might stumble onto something they shouldn’t, or run up horrendous bills by purchasing apps.
Less useful are backup facilities found in many of these suites. Some merely back up contacts, which is generally already supported when you sign in with your Google account on an Android or iOS device. Others offer a tiny amount of space for storing your photos and files.
So in answer to the original question, it's a good idea to get antivirus for your phone for all of the reasons listed above. We have a more detailed analysis on the do you need antivirus on Android? debate.
As you can already see from the apps listed above, there's plenty of choice when it comes to antivirus apps on Android. Obviously, it's important to make sure you're getting an app you trust, because recent tests carried out by AV-Comparatives found that less than a third of all Android antivirus apps actually work. The site tested 250 apps and found that only 80 of them managed to detect at least 30% of malicious apps without any false alarms. And that is a poor figure.
While an app can provide a good level or protection from malicious software, hackers are often reliant on users to make mistakes or be fooled into installing the malware themselves without realising what they're doing. With this in mind, here are tips on how to protect yourself online and 8 ways to protect yourself from cybercrime so that you don't make it easy for those who would seek to do you harm.