Best Android antivirus? The top 9 tools

The following are the nine best business-class antivirus tools for Android, according to AV-TEST’s September 2019 evaluations of 19 Android security apps. (The AV-TEST Institute is a Germany-based independent service provider of IT security and antivirus research.)

AV-TEST rates each tool for three areas: protection (six points max), performance (six points max), and usability (six points max). The products listed here all had perfect scores of 18.

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The average real-time malware detection rate for all apps tested was 97.5%. For real-time detection of Android malware discovered in the past four weeks the average rate was 97.4%.

How to use these antivirus test results

Keep in mind that these tests were done in a lab environment. Different enterprise systems with different threat models will see different results for each of the products listed below. In other words, don’t expect that a 100% detection rate in the lab means that a product will detect all antivirus threats on your network. One reason is that it can take days for a newly submitted malware sample to make it into any given antivirus product’s database.

What the AV-TEST results show is which Android antivirus products are consistently the best at the fundamentals of malware detection and have minimal impact on system performance. That makes a good starting point as you evaluate which products work best for your environment.

The apps below are in alphabetical order.

1. Antiy Labs AVL 2.7 

AVL had perfect scores across the board for protection, performance and usability. It is a little light on features, offering only call blocking of unknown numbers.

2. Bitdefender Mobile Security Version 3.3

Bitdefender Mobile Security’s Android malware detection in real-time is 100%, and it discovered the newest Android threats discovered in the last four weeks 100% of the time as well. For usability, the app gets big check marks for not dragging down battery life or device speeds. AV-TEST found zero false warnings during installation/usage of legitimate apps from Google Play or during installation and use of apps from third-party stores.

Unlike some Android malware protection apps, Bitdefender’s Mobile Security offers anti-theft features, including remote lock, wipe, and locate, as well as safe web browsing and phishing protection. Like many other Android security tools, it doesn’t include message filtering or call blocking and doesn’t support all types of encryption. Additional features not evaluated include app lock and a privacy advisor.

3. Cheetah Mobile Security Master 5.0

Security Master had perfect 100% scores in both protection tests, checked all the boxes for performance, and gave no false warnings. It has a reasonably good suite of features including anti-theft, application control, VPN, a wi-fi advisor/check, and safe browsing.

4. G Data Internet Security 26.5

G Data’s Internet Security has more features than many of its other top-rated competitors. AV-TEST checked the boxes for remote lock, wipe, and locate; call blocking; message filtering; safe browsing; and parental control. The only ‘x’ marks the app received were for not enabling personal data to be saved to an SD card or cloud storage and not providing a VPN feature.

Internet Security’s real-time Android malware detection rate was 100%, and it detected threats discovered in the past four weeks 100% of the time as well. The app issued zero false warnings during installation and use of legitimate apps from third-party app stores.

5. Kaspersky Internet Security 11.28

Although Kaspersky Internet Security executed the protection tests perfectly and checked all the performance boxes, its feature set is not as big as some of the other options on this list. It offers application control, call blocking, and safe browsing, but does not have features like backup to an SD card or a privacy advisor.

6. McAfee Mobile Security Version 5.2

McAfee Mobile Security Android malware scanner detected bugs in real-time 99.7% of the time, and caught malware discovered in the last four weeks 100% of the time. Usability was stellar. The app’s feature set is strong, including a full set of anti-theft tools, call blocking, safe browsing and phishing protection, parental control, and the ability to save personal data to an SD card or the cloud. Mobile Security doesn’t support call blocking, however. 

7. Symantec Norton Mobile Security 4.6

Symantec Norton Mobile Security caught 100% of all Android malware, including those discovered recently and within four weeks, with no false warnings. It has a good set of usability features, including safe browsing, personal data backup, anti-theft, and call blocking. Features not reviewed include an app advisor.

8. Sophos Mobile Security 9.0

Nearly perfect in the protection tests, Sophos Mobile Security caught 99.8% of the malware samples in real time and all the Android malware discovered in the last four weeks. It offers application control, a privacy advisor, safe browsing, and a Wi-Fi advisor, but no VPN feature, call blocking or backup to an SD card.

9. Trend Micro Mobile Security 10.3

Trend Micro Mobile Security had perfect scores across all three test areas. It also has a solid feature set, missing only backup of personal data and VPN capability. Features not tested include anti-theft, messenger protection, network protection, and parental control.

The state of Android security

Research from the AV-TEST Institute shows that Android malware samples collected have increased sizably every year. In 2014, the total was more than 326 million. The next year, the malware tally reached more than 470 million. In 2016, AV-TEST recorded nearly 597.5 million samples—nearly double the amount from two years earlier. And in 2018, we’re looking at 838.14 million.

av test total malware AV-TEST Institute

AV-TEST data shows steep growth of Android malware

By 2019, mobile malware will comprise about 33 percent of all malware reported in standard tests, up from 7.5 percent today, according to Gartner’s August 2017  “Market Guide for Mobile Threat Defense Solutions.” Though iOS devices aren’t immune from malware, “The mobile malware threat is primarily coming from Android,” said Dionisio Zumerle, research director at Gartner. The threat should be a concern for all companies with Android users, he said—especially those with large fleets of Android devices or that are in high-security verticals such as finance, healthcare, and government.

Android malware continues to become stealthier and more complex, too. For example, in October 2018, it was discovered that malware authors had been sneaking mobile banking Trojans into the Google Play store that masqueraded as device boosters and cleaners, battery managers, and horoscope apps. “These remotely controlled Trojans are capable of dynamically targeting any apps found on the victim’s device with tailor-made phishing forms,” according to the IT security firm ESET’s We Live Security blog. “Aside from this, they can intercept and redirect text messages to bypass SMS-based two-factor-authentication, intercept call logs, and download and install other apps on the compromised device.” 

The good news? “Android security is improving, and the diversity of security applications available for the platform is strong,” said Nick FitzGerald, senior research fellow at ESET. “That means there’s more than one set of hurdles the bad guys must clear to have a highly successful malware campaign.”

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.