Android security suites compared

Summary:AV-Test.org's latest comparison of security suites for Android have many products with very high scores. Among the best, the difference is in a comparison of features and capabilities for the enterprise.

AV-Test.org has released their latest tests of Android security apps. They tested 31 apps with results ranging from dreadful to excellent, with the large majority either excellent or close to it. The tests were performed in March and early April 2014.

AV-Test's take on the key findings includes (quoting them):

  • The malware protection rate was in the range of 17.7% to 100%, with an average detection of 95.3% (this value is 0.7% lower when compared with the previously performed review).
  • Six security apps created false positives on our test systems, including clean Apps from Google Play and from 3rd party App stores.
  • The offered features of the free and paid-for security apps differ significantly. Therefore, we recommend a close look at the list of reviewed security features like anti-theft, backup and encryption.

Twelve of the products got top scores on all three of their criteria: protection (how well the product protects against malware), usability (false positives and impact on performance, battery life and network traffic) and features (beyond malware protection). This means that they detected 100% of all malware and had no adverse impact on system performance, battery life, or network consumption. Many other products were close on one or more of these scores, but to make things manageable we decided to focus on the products below.

Kingsoft Mobile Security and Qihoo 360 MobileSecurity appear to be Chinese only and AhnLab V3 Mobile Plus is Korean only. We aren't qualified to evaluate any of the information on the web sites or Google Play, so we have removed them. This cuts the number of products to nine.

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The first thing we can look at are the added features. AV-Test gives a point to a product simply for having any "important security features" beyond the core malware protection. But they also list which products have which features. By this measure, the winner is NQ Mobile Security, with ESET Mobile Security and McAfee Mobile Security not far behind. But this is an area where you can look at the features in each and decide which matter most to you.

Most of the products work on the freemium model: There is a free version, but if you pay to upgrade to the Premium version you get more features. KSMobile and TrustGo's products are full-featured in the free versions.

We also looked, as AV-Test suggested, at the differences in the free offerings and whether the vendor provides any tools with which companies might manage them. Not surprisingly, the products with versions that provide manageability come from the more established endpoint security companies: ESET, Kaspersky, McAfee, and Trend Micro.

Product Free/Premium Enterprise Version
Avira Free Android Security 3.1 Free. Pro version ($11.99) adds protection against malicious/phishing sites and identity theft, and more frequent updates. none
ESET Mobile Security & Antivirus 2.0 Free. Premium upgrade ($14.95 for one year -[an earlier version of this story mistakenly had the price at $29.95]) activates many features: Remote Wipe, SIM Guard, Anti-Phishing, Apps Audit, Device Monitoring, Groups Blocking, Block Last Caller, Control calls and SMS by setting rules for incoming and outgoing calls and texts limited to specific times, while allowing exceptions for family and friends. ESET Endpoint Security for Android - "Monitor the security status of your smartphone fleet, run on-demand scans, push security policies and set passwords to prevent unauthorized uninstallation. Get an overview of the platforms, OS versions and other device information to stay up-to-date on your smartphones’ security."
Kaspersky Internet Security 11.2 Free. Premium upgrade ($14.95 for one year) activates Anti-malware Protection, Web Protection, Anti-Theft Protection, Privacy Protection, Call & Text Filter Kaspersky Security For Mobile: "FOR CORPORATE USERS ONLY!"; Remote configuration of app settings by the administrator; Remote start of Anti-Theft by the administrator. When your device gets lost or stolen, contact your system administrator so he can protect your personal and corporate data stored on the device; Control of access to apps installed on the device. The administrator can create a list of allowed and blocked apps and specify required apps; Control of device functions (such as the Wi-Fi module or camera). The administrator can restrict access to certain functions of your device.
KSMobile Clean Master 5.0 Free. No premium version. none
KSMobile CM Security 1.0 Free. No premium version. none
McAfee Mobile Security 4.0 Free. Premium upgrade ($29.99/year) provides "McAfee’s award-winning phone support, media backup and a promotion-free app environment" McAfee VirusScan Mobile: No indication of manageability features. Web site information is quite old, indicating product is not actively marketed.
NQMobile Security 7.2 Free. Premium ($2.99/month, $7.99/3 months, $19.99/12 months) enables automatic updates, anti-eavesdropping, financial protection and social network protection. none
Trend Micro Mobile Security 5.0 Free. Premium upgrade ($29.99) adds malware cleaner, privacy scanner, malicious web site blocker, parental controls, lost device protection, and unauthorized uninstall protection. Enterprise Security and Data Protection: "MDM, data security, mobile security, and application management"
TrustGo Mobile Security 1.3 Free. No premium version. none

Not all vendors choose to cooperate with AV-Test on their comparisons and AV-Test does not test such products. Some of the vendors may disagree with AV-Test methodology. Among the non-prarticipants in this report are Lookout and AVG. When they test, AV-Test says they require access to experts at the company in order to verify findings and give them a chance to dispute those findings. 

You can follow the details of AV-Test's reports yourself by following them on Twitter.

Topics: Security, Android, Mobility

About

Larry Seltzer has long been a recognized expert in technology, with a focus on mobile technology and security in recent years. He was most recently Editorial Director of BYTE, Dark Reading and Network Computing at UBM Tech. Prior to that he spent over a decade consulting and writing on technology subjects, primarily in the area of sec... Full Bio

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