Is antivirus protection for a smartphone really necessary?

Deborah Salmi 18 Apr 2013

Is antivirus protection for a smartphone really necessary?

android phones sm

Question of the week: I have avast! Free Antivirus on my computer and I love it, but isn’t antivirus for a smartphone overkill? I mean, there are not so many threats to a phone, are there?

This is a question being asked by lots of security firms lately, and the answer is a resounding, YES. As smartphones and tablets become increasingly popular, so do threats that target mobile devices exclusively. Two particular studies published lately have pointed to an increase in mobile malware over the past year.

Android is in the bull’s eye

Mobile security firm NQ Mobile states in its study that security threats from mobile malware are on the rise and nearly 95% of it targets Google’s Android platform. According to IDC’s data, Android devices are much more dominant than those running iOS. In the fourth quarter of 2012, Android had a 70.1 percent share globally, which makes Android devices quite interesting for cybercrooks. In total, 32.8 million Android phones were infected with malware in 2012 – more than triple the number of the year before. So if you are an Android user, it’s especially important for you to protect your devices.

Classic threats move from desktops to mobile

The most successful mobile malware tactics, include scams, spam and phishing; classics that dominated the threat landscape when malware first moved to the web reports web security provider Blue Coat Systems. Both studies agree that mobile threats are still largely “mischiefware” which combines mobile malware with social engineering techniques (Phishing and Smishing) to gain access to users’ financial information.

It’s interesting to note that in 2012 the most dangerous place for mobile users were pornography sites. Mobile users don’t actually visit porn sites too often – the number is less than 1 percent, but nearly 25 percent of malware on mobile devices comes from porn websites, making the risk of getting malware from porn sites nearly 3 times higher than other content areas.

mobile threats


How to protect yourself against evolving threats

  • Install avast! Free Mobile Security anti-theft and antivirus protection for your Android device. Once you have it set up, don't forget to scan your mobile device regularly.
  • Set up a password – NQ says that 1 out of every 2 mobile users have no password on their device. We did a poll on Facebook, and only 1 out of 4 avast! users say they don’t have a password, so avast! users are more security-minded than others. :-)
  • Check the legitimacy of apps you download – first check the developer of the app to make sure they're the real deal. If you’re downloading something you haven’t heard of before, check the ratings, reviews, and comments for red flags. You can read about one such example in our blog post, Sneaky little bastard.

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