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Android devices are under attack from hackers, viruses, and other malicious attacks, says security software company AVG, and your Android phone might be their next target.

According to the recently-released "AVG Community Powered Threat Report, there has been a significant spike in the number of malicious applications targeting the Android platform. Approximately .20% (that's 1 out of every 500) downloaded Android applications have been marked as malicious by the company. The Android platform, says AVG, is particularly susceptible to malicious attacks (as opposed to its rival, iOS and the iPhone) because of the inherent openness of the platform, which allows users to install software from non-canonical sources once they've disabled a setting on their phone. That so-called "Open Garden" approach to software installation means that users (while, for example, trying to download a pirated version of a paid application), may unwittingly install software on their Android that comes along with a malicious payload such as a mobile virus or spyware.

Fortunately for Android users, there are mobile security applications out there that can help you to keep your Android phone or tablet safe - but users have to willingly install them themselves.

Here's a rundown of a few of the mobile security applications available for the Android platform:

  1. AVG Anti-Virus Free
  2. In partnership with DroidSecurity, AVG's free mobile antivirus solution (powered by advertisements) offers a host of features including a real-time scanner, phone locator, backup assistant, task killer, local device wipe, and other security essentials. It'll scan your applications at install time to verify that they're not registered as malicious applications, affording you some measure of protection when downloading applications from non-canonical sources. In addition, AVG Anti-Virus Free will identify unsecure settings on your device and advise you how to fix them. It'll even scan media files that might be hiding malicious payloads and other security threats. Scans can be run on demand or can be scheduled to run daily or weekly. The pro (read: paid) version of this application also features an ad-free interface, as well as VIP technical support.

  3. Antivirus Free
  4. Despite the somewhat ubiquitous name, Antivirus free provides basic protection at install-time against mobile viruses like DroidDream and Geinimi, cross-checking every application you install against a constantly-updated database of malicious apps. The fact that scans are only run at install-time, however, means that a 0-day application might sneak in before the Antivirus Free platform detects it, leaving your Android phone exposed.

  5. MyAndroid Protection
  6. MyAndroid Protection comes with the standard install-time scanning features of other Android antivirus platforms, as well as anti-theft features like remote lock, phone location, and remote phone wiping to eradicate your personal data from a distance. The software updates automatically to download new antivirus definitions, and like VG can be run on demand on or a daily or weekly schedule. Although its App Market description lists "Credit card protection & Identity Theft protection, these aren't actual features of the software itself.

  7. Lookout Mobile Security
  8. By far the most popular security application on the Android platform, Lookout's free product provides comprehensive mobile security features, blocking malware, spyware and phishing applications. It features daily or weekly security scans and is extremely lightweight, meaning that it won't drain on your battery and memory. Like other comprehensive packages, Lookout features a phone locator, remote GPS activator in case you lose your phone, and plenty of other features. Best of all, Lookout's backup feature backs up your data securely to Lookout's servers, which you can access online at myLookout.com. Highly praised by application tracking websites, if you're looking for the best all-around protection for your Android phone, you should look no further than Lookout Mobile Security.

This is just a sampling of the various Android security and antivirus applications out there on the market; many are free or ad-supported, and the featuresets can be quite robust. If you're not currently running antivirus for Android, I highly recommend that you put down this article, get on the Android Market, and install some on your phone or your tablet!

May 9, 2011

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