Is antivirus software necessary for Android?

We are often asked whether antivirus apps for Android are necessary, and for good reason. Would Android users benefit from antivirus apps? Not according to Android security Chief Adrian Ludwig. Ludwig also claimed that the threat posed by Android malware has been “overstated”.

What are Android viruses?

A virus is a type of malicious software (malware) program, the likes of which have been infecting our PCs for decades. As the Android platform has developed and became more widely used, so too has the number of potential threats to the system. Viruses don’t actually infect Android, because they don’t self-replicate, but the term gets used nonetheless.

Security reports – usually from antivirus and security companies – regularly tell us that the threats are on the rise. Whether you believe these reports or, like Ludwig, think they’re simply trying to scare you into installing an app, it’s a good idea to know as much as you can about Android viruses and where they come from.

Where does Android malware come from?

The Google Play Store is the largest target for this type of malware and scams, because it is the mainline delivery system for content onto your phone. The sheer volume of apps uploaded (and downloaded) per day, along with the lack of comprehensive policing, makes it an easy target.

But there are plenty of other delivery mechanisms for viruses and malware. Emails with attachments – much like the ones you get on your PC – or MMSs that get automatically downloaded, hacks on popular apps such as WhatsApp, phishing scams, fake apps, APKs you’ve installed manually (outside of the Play Store) or clicking suspect download links, among others

What is the risk of malware and viruses?

The security threat malware poses to our device varies. In some cases, it will simply send ads to your smartphone, which is annoying but not exactly dangerous. At other times, rogue software can imitate sites or apps you normally trust, tricking you into giving up your password or credit card details.

One of the most common security risks is in apps from the Play Store that pose as reputable apps – you know the ones: they usually have the exact same name and icon as the real one.

Once installed, these sketchy ripoff apps reveal their true purpose and either send text messages to premium phone numbers, attempt to open back doors to hackers or otherwise make you and your phone more vulnerable through nefarious means.