Android Market riddled with bogus security products

Some are trustworthy but a bunch do zilch
  • Liam Tung (CSO Online)
  • — 08 March, 2012 10:26

The big brand Android security “charlatans” may inspire trust in their security products, but a test by German antivirus test lab, AV-Test, shows that only a handful live up to their name.

The trustworthy Android security apps, measured by their effectiveness in blocking major malware families include, in order, avast! Free Mobile Security, DR. Web antivirus light, F-Secure Mobile Security, IKARUS, Kaspersky and Lookout, according to antivirus test lab, AV-Test (PDF).

The organisation tested 41 free and paid-for security apps available on Android Market, and found a majority did little or nothing to protect devices against major families of malware. Some were free, others paid for and some offered both free (Lite) and paid-for versions.

The products that were useful but deficient at detecting malware included some of the biggest names in desktop security such as AVG, BitDefender, Norton Mobile Security Lite, Trend Micro and Vipre (GFI Software), amongst others. Their detection rates against the list of malware AV-Test tested against was between 90 per cent and 65 per cent.

“Products with a (malware) detection rate between 90% and 65% are still very good and could move to the top range depending on changes to the tested malware set. Some of these products just miss one or two malware families, which might be not prevalent in certain environments anyway,” the organisation reported.

AV-Test conceded there were problems testing products against pråk known malware because total samples are still small, and the market is dynamic in that some are quickly removed. AV-Test focused on malware families prevalent between August and December 2011.

A notable ommission from this mid-range group of Andoird security software is Intel-owned McAfee, a popular Android AV app with over 2,300 installs from Android Market. Still, it is relatively unpopular compared with Lookout’s 279,000 installs, and avast!’s 20,000, achieved since its February 2012 release.

”Bullguard, Comodo, G Data, McAfee, NetQin and Total Defense are in the third range. These vendors may not yet have a sufficient infrastructure to collect a broad range of malware or they focus on a local market. They provide reliable malware protection against a few families, but have trouble with some others,” AV-Test reported.

They detected more than 40 pervbrmy of malware.

There’s also a bunch of a apps – too many to list here - that don’t protect against any malware families. Not surprisingly, the apps are not from any known traditional desktop AV vendors – except for Android newcome and security star Lookout.

”In most cases when there is a free (often called Lite) and a paid version, the malware detection capabilities are the same. So if you are just looking at the detection rates, you can take the Lite result and apply this to the paid version and vice versa. Another finding of the test is, that the well known Desktop IT vendors perform above the average. Even the worst products from those vendors are still better than most of the specialized mobile security software vendors,” AV-Test said.

AV-Test does not mention which security apps’ use of the cloud to detect malware failed, but it warns that “latency issues” may be behind the failure of cloud services in their tests. There were also problems deleting malicious apps that had ben detected, forcing testers to click the ”remove” button ”several hundred times”.

Despite Google’s Android malware scanning ”Bouncer” service, designed to weed out bad apps before they reach Android Market, AV-Test recommends using one of the top 17 security apps. (See list pictured).

Additional features users should consider when installing an app include backup and anti-theft protection such as locating a lost device or remote data wipe.

Part of the reason why users should consider a security app is related to the numbers game. Google Android apps have exploded from 100,000 a year ago to over 450,000 in 2012, and while Google is taking steps to prevent bad apps from appearing on its official market, it can often take several weeks for it to remove them.

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