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5 free Android security apps: Keep your smartphone safe

Eric Geier | Feb. 22, 2012
There's been much controversy over mobile OS security, especially where Android is concerned.

Some of the features -- such as any that require SMS -- require 3G support and so won't work on Wi-Fi-only Android tablets. Avast says better tablet support is also expected in early 2012.

Bottom line

Avast offers some great underlying functionality, like hiding the anti-theft component and providing enhanced uninstall protection for rooted devices. But you'll have to wait for the Web interface for remote features, and look elsewhere for backup features.

AVG Mobilation Anti-Virus Free

AVG Mobilation

Price: Free

Other versions: Anti-Virus Pro ($1.99) adds an app locker, app backup and support; Anti-Virus Pro for Tablets ($1.99) is optimized for tablets

AVG Mobilation Anti-Virus Free offers free protection for both phones and tablets against malware and browsing protection to prompt you when visiting a malicious website. It also includes SMS/text messaging protection that scans messages to ensure they're safe; various remote tools, including device locating, alarms, locking and wiping, and scanning. There is a malware scanner that analyzes data files as well as apps, a task killer, a tune-up utility to help save battery usage and storage space, and a personal data wiper to clear cache.

An app locker that password protects individual apps and an app backup tool are also offered as a 13-day trial. The Pro version (which costs a one-time $1.99 fee) unlocks the trials and adds a spam and scam feature; there is also a version available for tablets.

Anti-Virus automatically scans apps you install and lets you run full scans on demand or automatically on a daily or weekly basis, but oddly doesn't let you specify the days or time. It does, however, also scan for potentially insecure settings along with malicious content and media.

Though the app runs in the background, it doesn't appear on the notification bar or menu until it detects an issue. Once you open the app, the main screen can be a bit confusing -- it doesn't contain status info or shortcuts to the main features like most other security apps do. You tap the screen to run a scan or press the device's Menu button to access shortcuts.

AVG provides a website to use the remote functions. Though it's possible to access it via smartphones and other small mobile devices, the site is optimized for desktop/laptop access. It allows you to initiate remote locating on a Google map, initiate an alarm and remotely lock your device with a custom message; you can also set an unlock password, wipe the device, and remotely start scanning for malware. You won't find your phone's number on the site, but it does detect SIM card changes and will send automated email alerts to you when a card switch is detected.


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