As Android devices continue to surge in popularity, the recently disclosed Stagefright vulnerability, affecting 950 million devices, served as a strong reminder of how crucial it is to keep a close eye on security, particularly if your Android phone or tablet holds sensitive information.
In terms of Android security apps, there's now an embarrassment of options to match the surge in threats—any of the apps listed here should provide a strong measure of protection against the vast majority of threats you'll face, even though they differ widely in pricing and in some specific features. (It's also advisable to check recent reports from AV-Comparatives and AV-TEST to see which solutions have been recently recognized as the most effective in protecting Android devices from malware.)
Lookout for Android
Lookout for Android includes malware blocking, theft protection (locate a lost or stolen device and sound an alarm remotely) and contact backup. The premium version adds the ability to view which of your apps are accessing your personal information, safe browsing functionality, automated alerts if a device appears to have been stolen, remote lock and wipe, and photo and call history backup. The basic version is free; premium costs $29.99 a year.
Avast Free Mobile Security
Avast Free Mobile Security is a free app that includes anti-virus scanning, reporting of potential privacy risks from installed apps, call and text filtering, an app manager, scanning for malicious URLs and a firewall. Anti-theft features include the ability to rename the Avast app to disguise it, the ability to hide the Avast app from the app tray, SIM card removal alerts, remote lock and wipe, remote alarm and the ability to have the lost or stolen device call you with the screen blacked out so you can listen to the device's surroundings. Avast Premium Mobile Security ($14.99 a year) adds the ability to take a photo automatically following three failed attempts to unlock the device; geofencing (if the device goes outside of a set perimeter, it can automatically be locked, sound an alarm, and/or send an alert with its location); and the ability to monitor all advertisements within apps and their tracking systems.
AVG Antivirus Free
AVG Antivirus Free blocks malware and spyware; scans websites, links, apps and files for threats; locates and locks or wipes a lost or stolen device; monitors data usage, storage usage and battery consumption; and blocks unwanted calls and texts. AVG Antivirus Pro ($11.99) removes advertisements from the app and adds app backup; app lock (password protection for apps and settings); automatic device lock if the SIM card is replaced; and "Camera Trap," which automatically takes a photo with the front-facing camera following three failed attempts to unlock the device.
NQ Mobile Security
NQ Mobile Security offers on-device malware and spyware scanning and protection; real-time scanning of new threats; safe browsing; a privacy audit; call and SMS blocking; contacts backup; and a data usage monitor. The premium version, priced at $19.99 a year, adds remote locate, lock, wipe and alarm for lost or stolen devices; a SIM card removal alert; and the ability to take a photo remotely using a lost or stolen device.
360 Security, a free app, automatically scans installed apps, memory card content and new apps for viruses, adware, malware and Trojans. Anti-theft features include remote wipe, locate, alarm and lock. The app can also block unwanted phone calls and texts, lock individual apps to protect privacy, monitor data usage, free up RAM to improve performance and remove old and unused files to free up storage space.
McAfee Mobile Security
McAfee Mobile Security offers anti-virus scanning and real-time detection; safe Web surfing; Wi-Fi security; app protection (alerts regarding apps that may put personal data at risk); a call blocker and SMS filter; and anti-theft features, including the ability to take a photo of the person holding your lost or stolen device, determine the device location, lock and wipe the device remotely, and sound a remote alarm. Recent additions include the ability to link to Android Wear devices and battery optimizer and file cleanup functionality. The premium version, which is free if you're a McAfee LiveSafe or McAfee All Access user or costs $29.99 a year otherwise, removes ads and adds phone support and media backup.
Norton Mobile Security
Norton Mobile Security identifies and removes apps that contain malware or potential privacy risks, scans SD cards for threats, blocks unwanted calls and texts, backs up contacts and offers a wide variety of anti-theft protection, including the ability to locate a lost or stolen device, to take a photo of anyone using the device, to trigger an alarm, and to lock or wipe a device remotely. The free version includes a limited range of features. The more robust premium version costs $29.99 a year.
Webroot SecureAnywhere Mobile
Webroot SecureAnywhere Mobile automatically scans apps for malware; identifies and blocks malicious websites; blocks unwanted calls and text messages; and includes remote lock, locate and alarm for a lost or stolen device. The premium version adds remote wipe; SIM card lock; network access monitor; battery usage monitor; and an app inspector that checks for privacy concerns, potential fees from apps and battery drain. The basic version is free, and the premium costs $29.99 a year.
Kaspersky Internet Security for Android
Kaspersky Internet Security for Android includes manual malware scanning; remote lock, wipe, locate and alarm; the ability to take a photo remotely via a lost or stolen device; and call and text filtering. The premium version adds automated malware scans, blocks malicious websites, detects and blocks phishing links in incoming text messages and includes a password manager. The basic version is free, and the premium version costs $14.95 a year.
Trend Micro Mobile Security
Trend Micro Mobile Security includes an antivirus scanner; 50MB of cloud storage to back up contacts and photos; a privacy scanner for Facebook; a battery monitor; a memory (RAM) booster and monitor; and a history cleaner. The premium version adds the ability to block malicious apps before they're installed; a malware cleaner; remote locate, lock, wipe and alarm; a privacy scanner; parental controls; call and text filtering; and an app manager. Basic version is free, and premium costs $29.99 a year.
Bitdefender Mobile Security
Bitdefender Mobile Security, priced at $14.95 a year after a 14-day free trial, includes a malware scanner; a Web security scanner; a privacy advisor; the ability to set passcodes for individual apps; and anti-theft features including remote locate, lock, wipe and alarm, as well as the ability to listen in on your phone remotely if it's lost or stolen. A new WearON feature sends an alert or sounds an alarm if your phone moves too far away from your Android Wear device.
ESET Mobile Security
ESET Mobile Security, a free app, includes on-demand virus scanning; automatic scanning of downloaded apps and files; malware quarantine; scanning logs; and remote lock, locate and alarm by SMS. The premium version, priced at $19.95 a year, includes online management of a lost or stolen device; scheduled scanning of apps, settings and files; safe browsing and phishing protection; privacy audit of installed apps; and selective call and text blocking. A Proactive Anti-Theft feature is activated if a wrong PIN is entered or the SIM card is changed, and it can forward a photo of the suspicious user, log the device's location and display a customizable message.
Sophos Mobile Security
Sophos Mobile Security, a free app, scans apps on demand and at set intervals; warns of potentially unwanted apps; supports remote lock, wipe, locate and alarm; sends an alert in response to a SIM card change; blocks unwanted calls and text messages; quarantines texts with malicious URLs; and identifies apps that access personal data or charge fees.
Avira Antivirus automatically scans all apps and app updates for malware; scans SD memory cards for malware; reviews apps for privacy concerns; allows individual apps to be locked for privacy; and blocks unwanted calls and text messages. Anti-theft tools include remote lock, wipe, locate and alarm. The premium version, priced at $11.99 a year, adds blocking of malicious websites, hourly updates and a dedicated support service.
CM Security, a free app, includes a highly rated anti-virus engine with an app scanner, system scanner and SD card scanner. It also features the ability to lock individual apps or settings for privacy; erase personal information from the clipboard and browsing records; automatically take a photo of anyone who enters an incorrect password twice; block unwanted calls; block malicious URLs; and clear RAM to boost device performance. Anti-theft features include remote locate, alarm and lock.
G Data Internet Security for Android
G Data Internet Security for Android offers anti-virus scanning both before and after installation of an app, as well as on-demand scans and memory card scans. The premium version, which costs EUR 18.99/year or about U.S. $21.35, adds advanced scanning functionality; parental controls; protection from malicious websites; password protection for individual apps; SMS and call filtering; and anti-theft features including remote locate, lock and wipe, and automatic lock if the SIM card is changed.
GadgetTrak Mobile Security
If you're more concerned about tracking a lost or stolen device than about detecting or blocking malware, GadgetTrak Mobile Security ($19.95/year) uses a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi positioning and cell tower triangulation to track a device's location. All photos and contacts on the device can be encrypted and backed up securely. Unauthorized SIM card changes trigger an alert and, in case of theft or loss, the device can be wiped and an alarm can be sounded remotely.
LastPass Password Manager
Premium Moving on to password management, LastPass Password Manager Premium ($1 a month) combines an Android app with a PC-based browser extension. A master password provides access to a cloud-based password vault, and the app and extension can fill in site passwords for you automatically, both on your PC and your Android device. The Android app includes a built-in browser, a secure password generator, and the ability to add, update and delete notes and websites to and from your saved data. To protect saved passwords, over a dozen different multifactor authentication options are supported.
1Password for Android
1Password for Android ($9.99) provides mobile access to view, modify and create user names, passwords, credit card numbers and other data stored via the desktop version of the software ($49.99), using Dropbox or Android Folder Sync to sync between the two. The Android app keeps data protected either with a password or a four-digit unlock code.
Keeper Password Manager
Keeper Password Manager ($9.99 a year) stores passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information in a cloud-based vault. The solution includes a secure password generator and browser extensions for all mobile Web browsers. Individual logins can be shared vault-to-vault with other Keeper users. Instead of multifactor authentication, the app uses Keeper DNA authentication to verify your identify via biometric authentication or a connected device such as a smartwatch.