Of all the smartphone and tablet operating systems available at the moment, the one that I simply can't recommend to people is Google Android. Unlike Apple, Microsoft and some other companies Google don't properly screen programs that go into its app store and, as such, large amounts of malware keep getting through.
This is a real shame as it would be very easy for a company with Google's resources to manage their app store properly and bring security and peace of mind to their millions of customers.
Now though a test by AV Test.org has showed that the current batch of free anti-virus packages for Android are pretty useless. In their tests they found that the best overall virus and malware scan result from these packages found on 32% of malware when performing a manual scan with four out of the seven packages tested finding nothing at all.
The "on installation" results were slightly better, but not by much with all but one of the packages finding only 10% of malware.
The results of the real-time guard functionality were quite shocking. The guard should warn the user upon installation of malicious apps. The 10 malware samples were chosen with the help of AV-TEST's own analysis system, which uses more than 30 virus scanners to analyze the APK files. The test set contains the 10 files, which were most often classified as malware by the virus scanners. Because of the high detection rates these files can be considered as well known and should therefore be detected by a reliable virus-scanner. Did the vendors of mobile security apps know them, too? The test results will show: Zoner AntiVirus Free was the only app with a respectable result. It detected 8 out of 10 samples during the installation attempts. BluePoint AntiVirus Free, Kinetoo Malware Scan and Privateer Lite still warned against one malicious app. Antivirus Free by Creative Apps, GuardX Antivirus and LabMSF Antivirus beta failed completely. In comparison to the free apps the commercial products of F-Secure and Kaspersky detected all threats without a problem.
The packages tested were Antivirus Free, BluePoint Antivirus Free, GuardX Antivirus, Kinetoo Malware Scan, LabMSF Antivirus beta, privateer Lite and Zoner Antivirus Free.
Even the very best test result here of 80% for Zoner with the installation scan is well below what is considered acceptable for virus and malware protection and scores of 10% or even 0% are unheard of.
People place considerable trust in anti-virus software. We all want to be able to trust that whatever we choose to use, we will be protected from the vast majority of malware on our devices. On smartphones however where the handset is capable of running up huge bills for you by texting premium rate numbers, the trust we have in this software is even more important. A significant number of people are also trusting these anti-virus apps as the report details.
The number of installations, which is given on the market website, shows that many users trust these free apps, although they do not offer a reliable protection. The by far most popular program is Antivirus Free by Creative Apps with 1,000,000 to 5,000,000 installations. The only useful free product Zoner AntiVirus Free has just 50,000 - 100,000 users. The best protection was achieved by the commercial tools of the well known security software vendors Kaspersky and F-Secure. The circulation of obviously near to useless security apps endangers those, who trust them and install apps from 3rd party app markets without further suspiciousness.
I still can't recommend Google's Android operating system because of the malware problem, no matter how usable or polished an operating it may be. For anti-virus packages to be completely missing almost 100% of malware on the platform however just adds salt to the wounds.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.