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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.

Norton Mobile Security Lite


Price: Free

Other versions: Norton Mobile Security ($29.99/yr.) adds anti-theft and anti-loss features, phishing protection, call and text blocking

Norton Mobile Security Lite provides free malware protection and remote locking. The premium service ($29.99/year) adds browser protection and call and text blocking, along with remote locating, a remote alarm, remote camera control to take snapshots and remote wiping. There is a tablet version ($29.99/yr.) coming (the date hasn't been announced) that will support the remote anti-theft functionality for Wi-Fi-only devices as well.

In addition to performing malware scans on app downloads and updates, you can run app and SD card scans on demand or schedule scans daily, weekly or monthly. Though Norton checks for virus database updates weekly by default, it can be changed to daily (or monthly).

By default you won't see an icon in the notification bar or menu unless the app detects a security issue, but you can enable it so you always know your security status.

Norton Mobile Security Lite has a very simple and straightforward interface. Unless you purchase the premium service, there are only two main shortcuts accessible on the main screen of the app: one for the anti-theft and another for anti-malware. But hitting the device's Menu button gives you a few more shortcuts, such as to view the activity log or access the update or notification settings.

The remote functions for the free version can be initiated only via SMS commands. The premium service offers a plug-in for the app that in turn lets you perform remote functions on your device using a Web browser. The free version lacks any SIM card protection or remote change notifications.

Bottom line

The free version of this app is the most basic of the five I reviewed. Norton Mobile Security doesn't offer as much as other free apps; you get much more if you sign up for the premium service, which comes at a recurring cost. That premium service does offer remote camera control, but most of its other features are available in other free apps.

NQ Mobile Security

NQ Mobile

Price: Free

Other versions: NQ Mobile Security Premium ($7.99/3 mos., $12.99/6 mos., $19.99/1 yr.) adds remote security features, anti-eavesdropping, financial data protection

NQ Mobile Security provides free anti-malware and browser protection, a firewall, cross-platform contact backup, and remote locating via Google Maps. It also offers a free privacy advisor that analyzes apps and their permissions, a traffic monitor that tracks data usage, and an app optimizer and manager.

SIM card change notifications are provided with the free version and can be set up to send to a specified mobile number -- say, of a friend. The premium service ($7.99 for 3 months, $12.99 for 6 months or $19.99 for 1 year) adds automatic virus updates and a remote alarm, along with remote locking and wiping. It also adds a malware scanner designed to scan banking apps, and anti-eavesdropping protection to help prevent phone tapping by any malicious apps.


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