Do you need security software on your Android phone?

You don't actually need an additional security software on your Android phone, except for psychological reasons. If you take the right precautions, you may never need to run a virus scan on your phone. Let's see why.

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Android malware is a powerful threat. If a virus finds its way into your smartphone, it can cause a lot of damage. It can steal your personal information, serve you a large and annoying dose of ads, and eat up your smartphone's resources.

The most popular malware deterrent on an Android mobile is an antivirus application.

But are antivirus apps really necessary? Do they protect your Android device from malware? Or do they end up exacerbating the problem and perhaps creating an additional one of their own?

How most Android antivirus apps work

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In order to understand whether or not you need an antivirus application, it is important to understand how most antivirus applications work. Surprisingly, it's not as complicated as you might think.

In a 2019 report by AV comparatives, the security research firm detailed research into some of the most popular antivirus apps on Android devices.

The conclusion was what many security experts suspected. Many popular Android antivirus apps do absolutely nothing to scan apps for malicious behavior.

A large number of antivirus applications simply use a whitelist of other companies, to compare with the applications you have installed on your smartphone. Any app that doesn't come from a whitelisted vendor is simply flagged as a potentially malicious app.

Others also use blacklist. They scan your phone to see if you have any of their blacklisted apps installed. Once detected, they are flagged with a recommendation to uninstall.

While this may sound useful, from a practical point of view, it offers very little to no protection. The lists that most of these so-called antivirus apps use to scan your smartphone are usually not good enough. Because new malicious apps appear all the time, a pre-made list of malicious apps is not an effective solution.

According to this Statista report as of March 2020, approximately 482.579 Android malware samples are distributed online each month. That means an average of 16.000 malware per day, a number too unattainable to keep track of.

That's why even when the vendors of these antivirus apps update their lists, they're just not comprehensive enough. Based on the statistics, there are probably thousands of malicious apps that have not yet been found.

These apps could wreak havoc on your phone and your antivirus app wouldn't be able to detect their activities. They end up giving you a false sense of security, eventually causing you to let your guard down.

Antivirus application can damage your Android phone

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If you have an antivirus app installed on your Android smartphone, a false sense of security might be the least of your worries.

Most antivirus apps will just sit on your phone, doing nothing but eating up your phone's resources and negatively impacting its performance in many ways.

Due to the use of fancy animations, background execution and real-time component development, antivirus applications can drain your battery. Of course, because they are always running, they will also be constantly competing with other running applications for RAM.

Depending on the antivirus application you use, the amount of resources accumulated could grow exponentially, even enough to slow down your phone.

On the other hand if they don't monitor your phone in real time then you probably don't need them. First get virus and if you ever realize that something strange is going on with the mobile, you will turn to the installed antivirus application. But the malicious program will have seen it before you! And he may have taken proper care of it.

And then there is the case of false positives. Many anti-malware applications sometimes flag legitimate applications as malware. Some even go so far as to take action on these potentially malicious apps to “protect the user”.

This is true for most antivirus applications that actually try to do their job. Others don't even bother.

If you've downloaded some popular antivirus apps made by less-than-trustworthy vendors, you could be giving malware the keys to your kingdom.

Malware masquerading as antivirus is usually one of the worst types of malware you could fall victim to, because of all the permissions and administrator privileges you may have granted it.

This enables them to bypass the need for users to click OK on their requests, which generally require a user's permission. Consequently, this allows the malicious antivirus application to run continuously in the background, perform rogue actions and even serve ads. Instead of doing their job, some of the antivirus applications on the market just cause harm.

Malware Intimidation by Antivirus Vendors for Android 

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According to Statista , Android is by far the most popular mobile operating system in the world. With a 73% market share, even Apple's iOS pales in comparison.

Being the most popular mobile computing platform comes at a cost. Not a month goes by without some news about Android malware that is sure to wreak havoc on your smartphone.

While most of these reports are factual, they overstate the real danger of malware. Antivirus vendors amplify this news, usually painting a picture of a malware pandemic.

In fact, while Android malware remains a strong threat, as long as your security settings are up-to-date, the chance of getting infected with malware is usually less than you might think. If you do everything right, your Android security measures negate the need for a third-party anti-malware app.

The Android operating system has come a long way since its vulnerable early days. Although still a favorite target for malicious apps, Android is, by nature, secure enough to keep you safe from the majority of malicious apps, if you play by the rules.

Android's built-in anti-malware capabilities

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One of the most significant malware risks for your Android smartphone is messing with your Android's default security rules. Many Android users change their security settings, inadvertently leaving room for malicious apps.

The vast majority of Android malware reaches a smartphone through dubious apps. While some of these applications sometimes they pass inspection in the Play Store, Google has a strong system to detect and eliminate this kind of applications.

By default, Android does not allow users to install apps from other sources. If you only install apps from the Play Store, you already have a strong level of security against malware.

Unfortunately, many people choose to install apps from other sources. To be fair, there are plenty of legitimate reasons why you might want to install apps from other sources. However, using only Play Store apps helps you benefit from Google's strong security controls on those apps.

The most destructive malware won't live long in Google's Play Store. Google regularly scans apps for malware every time they are uploaded. There is also a rigorous human review process to review any app that appears questionable.

From time to time, you may hear about one malware on the Play Store that floods people with ads or harvests information. Google has sophisticated tools to quickly detect and deal with these threats.

An effective anti-malware app should ideally be able to scan your phone for malicious behavior, boost your phone's speed, improve your privacy and protect your data. Many that are marketed as anti-malware applications do not do this. At least not in their free versions.

On the other hand, the Android OS, backed by security tools like Play Protect, excels at this.

Let Play Protect keep you safe

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Play Protect is built to effectively combat the latest malware using sophisticated algorithms that can learn and adapt to new threats. Because of the level of access it has inside your mobile, it can traverse the depths of your smartphone to discover malicious behavior and take the necessary actions.

Malicious apps will be uninstalled from your device even without explicitly asking for your permission.

It's not just that. Google's Play Protect can also monitor your network connections and the URLs you download from and issue warnings whenever a website or other network transmission is not secure.

No third-party Android malware protection app has as much access and resources as Play Protect. According to digital security research firm XYPRO, Google's Play Protect is probably the most effective "malware scanning" app available on Android.

Do you need antivirus software?

The big question is whether the Android operating system has most of what it needs to protect your Android phone. Is it worth risking your device's security with the promises made by third-party anti-malware vendors?

While there are indeed few quality anti-malware apps on the market made by reputable companies, the Android operating system is packed with most of what you'll need to stay safe.

So if you have any Android antivirus apps on your device right now, delete them if you doubt their quality.

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Written by Dimitris

Dimitris hates on Mondays .....

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