Two-Thirds of Android Anti-Virus Apps are Useless

A new study has proven that most Antivirus apps on the Android are a complete waste of money with some even making your device more vulnerable to malware.

The discovery is shocking given the increased level of exploitation of existing known attacks and the hidden so called ‘zero-day’ attacks which remain largely unpublished. Cybercrime is on the rise with exploits being used to steal credit card details, personal information including locations, GPS history, personal and professional contacts, emails, bank details, and other critical and sensitive information stored on mobile phones.

While the problem is not unique to the Android eco-system it’s sustained position as market leader has made it the first stop for new cybercriminal gangs as well as more established operators. The news is especially troubling given the rumbling volcano of recent accusations of spying against Huawei and suggests a picture of systematic exploitation which is largely being dealt with personally and quietly by large swathes of the population.

The initial study carried out in 2017 by AV-Comparatives was inspired by the surprising discovery that Virus Shield an anti-virus app which claimed to run a scan for malware in fact did nothing of the sort. Instead just showing a progress bar and announcing that the device was ‘free’ of malicious apps at the end of the animation. Many thousands of users paid money for Virus Shield, and it was trusted mainly because of it’s listing in the Google Play store. Google eventually had to refund the money paid to the users of the app, but not before seriously damaging their own reputation for security and thorough vetting of their apps.

Virus Shield

Since then AV Comparatives have done an annual test of AV apps on the Google Play store and published their results. They found that in addition to apps failing to perform checks, those apps which did often failed to detect the majority of malware, and were primarily a vehicle for displaying adverts and thus generating continued revenue for their authors. In the two hundred or so apps tested in 2018, 35 of them were pure ad slinging vehicles with little to no security value to their users.

The ‘Good’

More recently the 2019 test was conducted on over 250 apps and of those only 80 could detect at most 40% of malware, and generated no false positives.

For your convenience these are presented below:

AegisLab Antivirus PremiumMalwareBytes Anti-Malware
AhnLab V3 Mobile SecurityMax Dev Labs Antivirus
Alibaba Alibaba MasterMedia Master MD Antivirus
Antivirus Apps Studio AntivirusMicroWorld eScan Mobile Security
Antiy AVLMY-DATA Mobile Security
Apex Apps Mobile SecurityMYMobile Security Warrior
APUS Group APUS SecurityNQ Mobile Security
Avast Mobile SecurityNSHC Droid-X 4U
AVG AntiVirusONE App Virus Cleaner
AVIRA AntivirusPanda Free Antivirus and VPN
Bitdefender Mobile Security & AntivirusPhone Clean Apps Virus Cleaner
Brainiacs Apps Antivirus SystemPower Tools Apps Antivirus
BSafe Labs AntivirusPrivacy Lab Antivirus & Mobile Security
BullGuard Mobile Security and AntivirusPSafe dfndr security
CAP Lab Phone CleanerQihoo 360 Mobile Security
Check Point ZoneAlarm Mobile SecurityQuick Heal Antivirus & Mobile Security
Chili Security Android SecurityREVE Antivirus Mobile Security
Clean Boost+ Studio Phone CleanerSecurion OnAV
Comodo Mobile SecuritySamsung Device Maintenance
Dr.Web Security SpaceSmooth Apps Studio Super Antivirus
DU APPS STUDIO Speed Booster & CleanerSophos Mobile Security
Emsisoft Mobile SecuritySuper Cleaner Studio Super Antivirus
ESET Mobile Security & AntivirusSupermobilesafe Super Security
ESTsoft Dr.Capsule AntivirusSTOPzilla Mobile Security
Fotoable Antivirus & cleanerSuper Security Studio Antivirus
F-Secure Internet Security & Mobile AntivirusSymantec Norton Security
G DATA Internet SecurityTAPI Security Labs Antivirus & Virus Cleaner
GizmoSmart AntivirusTencent WeSecure
Google Play ProtectTG Soft VirIT Mobile Security
Hawk App Super CleanerThreatTrack VIPRE Mobile Security
Hi Security Virus CleanerTotal Defense Mobile Security
Hyper Speed AntivirusTrend Micro Mobile Security & Antivirus
IKARUS Mobile SecurityTrustGo Antivirus & Mobile Security
IntelliAV Anti-VirusTrustlook Antivirus & Mobile Security
IObit AMC SecurityTrustwave Mobile Security
Kaspersky Lab Mobile AntivirusWatchdogDevelopment Mobile Security
K7Computing Mobile SecurityWe Make It Appen Antivirus
Lookout Security & AntivirusWebroot Mobile Security & Antivirus
McAfee Mobile SecurityZemana Antivirus & Security
MalwareFox Anti-MalwareZONER AntiVirus

The Bad

By contrast the following 138 ‘anti-virus’ apps flagged less than 30% of malware and generated large numbers of false positives rendering them all but useless for securing one’s Android phoneo or tablet:
1Machine System Sdn Bhd, actionappsgamesstudio, Amantechnoapps, AMIGOS KEY, Amnpardaz Soft, AndroHelm Security, ANTI VIRUS Security, Antivirus Mobile Lab, antivirus security, appflozen, appsshow, Appzila, Arcane Security Solutions, AS team security phone Lab, asuizksidev, Ayogames, AZ Super Tools, azemoji studio, Baboon Antivirus, bESapp, Best Battery Apps, Best HD Wallpapers APPS, Best Tools Pro, BestOne, Bit Inception, BKAV, Bom Bom, Booster studio Laboratory Inc., brouno, Bulletproof AV, Caltonfuny Antivirus Phone, Cheetah Mobile, CHOMAR, Chromia, Cloud 7 Services, Core Antivirus Lab, CPCORP TEAM: Photo blur & photo blender, CreativeStudioApps, CY Security, Defenx, DefineSoft, DreamBig Studios, DU Master, electro dev, Erus IT Private Limited, Falcon Security Lab, Fast n Clean,, Formation App, Free Apps Drive, FrouZa, Galaxy TEAM, GameXpZeroo, GlobalsApps, gndnSoftware, GOMO Apps, GoNext App Developers, Gridinsoft, LLC, handy tools apps, Hello Security, Immune Smart, INCA Internet, infiniteWays007, Islamic Basic Education, Itus Mobile Security, JESKO, jixic, Kolony Cleaner, Koodous Mobile, lempea, LINE, LIONMOBI, Live multi Player Game, Main Source 365 Tech, Mama Studio, MAN Studio, Marsolis Tech, Max Antivirus Lab, Max Mobi Secure, MaxVV, Mob Utilities, Mobile Tools Plus, Mobtari, Mond Corey, M-Secure, MSolutions, MSYSOFT APPS, My Android Antivirus, NCN-NetConsulting, Nepelion Camp, Nisi Jsc, Niulaty, NP Mobile Security, NPC Studios, Omha, Oxic Studio, Pix2Pic Studio, playyourapp, Pro Tool Apps, prote apps, Protector & Security for Mobile, Puce, Radial Apps 2018, RedBeard, Secure Cloud, SecureBrain2, Security and Antivirus for Android solutions, Security Apps Team, Security Defend, SECURITY LAB, Security Systems Lab, SecurityApplock, Sept Max, ShieldApps, SjaellSoft, SkyMobileTeam, Smart Battery Solution & Creative Screen Lock, smarteazyapps, Software Center, Soft War, stmdefender, Systweak Software, TAIGA SYSTEM, Tokyo Tokyo, Tools dev, tools for android, Utilitarian Tools, Vainfotech, VHSTUDIO, Vikrant Waghmode, Virinchi Software, Virtues Media & Application, VSAR, Wingle Apps, Xtechnoz Apps, XZ Game, Z Team Pro.

The Ugly Truth

In summary most of these apps are phony, being used to generate easy revenue for their developers. Some well known brands such as F-Secure or Kaspersky Labs perform above the current industry average.

One can reduce risk – move as many essential systems away from your phone as possible. Despite convenience – do not keep credit cards details or banking apps on the phone. Use secure browsers to surf the net. Turn off location, and keep your system patched.

Safe stay readers.

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