One of the best things about Android ecosystem is also one of its biggest challenges. While its openness means we can install pretty much whatever apps we want without all that pesky interference from an app store, it also means there's a relatively easy avenue for malware to infect your device. So, like the PC world, security software is a good idea. But it seems the Android security software business is more about making money than offering real protection according to some independent research.
AV-Comparatives conducted a test of 250 different antivirus programs available for Android devices. And their comments on the apps were scathing.
With user interfaces seemingly generated from a few templates, the main purpose of these apps seems to be generating easy revenue for their developers – rather than actually protecting their users.
Of the 250 apps they tested, using 2000 types of malware and 100 "clean" apps to check for false-postive reports, 138 detected fewer than 30% of the Android malware samples, or reported high rates of false alarms on the safe files.
AV-Comparatives noted that 32 vendors had their apps pulled from the Play Store.
The testing was conducted on Samsung Galaxy S9 devices running Android 8.0 although some security apps were tested on Nexus 5 devices running Android 6.01 as some of the apps did not work properly on Android 8.0 - which is a worry.
Of the 250 apps tested, just 24 reported 100% success detecting malware and not reporting false positives. Interestingly, established players in the security software business were strongly represented. Once you get below the 99% effectiveness score, many of the names in the list are unfamiliar.
The apps with a perfect result were:
- Chili Security
- G Data
- Kaspersky Lab
- Total Defense
- Trend Micro
Another six reported a 99.8% success rate with eight more hitting the 99% success rate or better.
One app, NQ, reported a success rate of just 45%.
The report also details how many of the apps use the same core engine and simply reskin it, bundle it with a different secondary engine or use different settings in order to differentiate.
If you're shopping around for new security software for your Android device, the AV Comparatives report is well worth a look.