Is it necessary to install an antivirus on Android?

Surely at some point you have asked yourself this question: “Should I install an antivirus on my Android phone or tablet?”. We are all aware that if we work with a desktop computer and especially if we operate under Windows, a good antivirus is essential. But what about Android?

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According to the statements made some years ago by the head of the Android security department, Adrian Ludwig, “Not at all. I don’t think 99% of Android users get any benefit by installing antivirus on their Android device”. What’s more, according to Ludwig the fears of possible threats by malicious software in his operating system are totally unfounded and much is exaggerated with this matter.

We can understand the position of the Android security chief, but is he really correct? Furthermore, over time, Android malware has only grown, with viruses as well-known and harmful as the famous Joker and so many others that lag behind with equally catastrophic consequences. It certainly does not seem that the trend in this regard is downward. What’s more, if we listen to security companies they will tell you that a good antivirus on your phone is essential. Here there may be some crossover of interests. Who should we listen to then? Let’s try to distance ourselves and see it in perspective.

Android security chief says you don't need to protect yourself from malware ...

What are Android viruses like and how can they infect my device?

A virus is malicious software whose sole purpose is to degrade your system, perform illegal actions, or obtain confidential information without your permission. In Android, viruses are slightly different from those on PC, since they cannot self-replicate and spread to other devices on the network, but they are still less harmful.

For a virus to enter your phone, the most common way is usually by downloading an app through the Google Play Store. This is totally logical, since the Google Store is the most common source for downloading content on Android, and the one that accumulates the most traffic. However, there are many other ways you can get infected:

  • Manually installed APKs
  • Emails with attachments
  • MMS messages
  • Hacks in popular apps like Facebook or WhatsApp
  • Phising
  • Fake apps
  • Downloading suspicious links

What are the harmful effects of these viruses?

Most viruses for Android devices They simply send you advertising and open unwanted windows, which can be quite annoying, but little else. Others are responsible for degrading performance of your device, leaving it unusable and others try to get your passwords and personal data by fake apps. It is also common to download apps from the PlayStore that copy the name and logo of other popular apps, so that, once installed and run, they show their true nature.

Kaspersky Labs graph on the most widespread viruses for Android
Kaspersky Lab chart on virus types for Android

How can I know if I have been infected?

The stupidest thing a hacker could do would be to let you know that you have been or are going to be infected, therefore it is impossible for you to find out until it is too late. In any case, there is no need to look for ghosts where there are none: you are more likely to lose your phone and not have it properly protected (by means of a lock screen and with the possibility of remote deletion) than to be infected by malware and rob you all your data or disable your phone. Of course, as long as you don’t install pirated apps or resort to alternative repositories of dubious quality.

Knowing all this, should you install an antivirus?

There are infinity of antivirus apps on Android (Avast, AVG, etc), most of them free, and they all work practically the same: they only detect the threat once you have been infected (something logical on the other hand), and in 90% of the cases they are not even able to erase the damn virus. They tell you its name and where it is and you will have to get rid of it yourself. In addition, antivirus like other apps consume battery, waste resources and take up disk space.

Therefore, our recommendation is that if you suspect that you have been infected, install an antivirus, run it and once the corresponding cleaning is done, uninstall it again. It would be advisable to carry out this process periodically, once or twice a year, but no more. In short, if you are a responsible user and do not take many risks, Android is a safe, reliable and trustworthy platform with a wide range of possibilities.


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