Most of us who spend a significant amount of time on our machines have gotten used to installing decent protection against viruses and malware as soon as we install an operating system.
However, security tools and awareness about these security tools are far less common when it comes to smartphone devices.
Of course, the obvious question that arises from all this discussion is whether or not you should use an antivirus application on your Android or iPhone device?
If you do, then what is the best way of installing such antivirus applications?
We should also not ignore all the built-in malware protections that most modern smartphone devices running the iOS and Android operating systems come with.
Are these, on their own, enough to protect our online and offline data?
We will start off with the fact that the question of whether or not you need to install an antivirus app on your Android or iOS is not the most simple and straightforward question that we have ever had to answer.
And there are many reasons why we say that.
For one, there is a ton of difference between smartphone devices that are running iOS and those that are running Android.
There are several good antivirus apps and other security tools available for the Android platform.
On the other hand, iOS has none of them.
The reason for that is simple as well.
Antivirus applications and other such programs need the device to grant them system-wide administrative access.
The Apple mobile operating system, the iOS, does not grant that.
And that means they can’t operate on any of Apple’s mobile devices.
Of course, you can always go the route of installing various different security applications from places which are outside the officially approved places.
Yes, there is a possibility for users to do that on their own and not make use of their device’s default app store.
But that too is easier when you are doing it on the Android platform rather than on the iOS platform.
If you did not know that already, this freedom to do things on the Android platform is how Epic Games managed to plan ahead and actually distributed its most popular game Fortnite directly to the users who had phones powered by the Android operating system.
The real question that users need to answer is whether they need the myriad of paid-for and free security tools which are available on the Android platform.
Android users need to think about that.
On the other hand, iOS users have a different set of questions to think about in this regard.
They need to know more about what Apple has done for the security of their devices.
And whether Apple’s solution to their online privacy and other security worries is good enough to keep any and all unwanted and unwarranted malicious code completely off their smartphone device.
Do you want no risk or lower risk?
Now, here is the good news.
Users who are smart enough to keep their smartphone devices up to date by making use of the update systems installed on their devices are safe.
Android and iOS users who have turned on automatic updates are secured with the latest patches.
So they are safe as well.
If you never venture outside of installing well-known applications which are available from places such as the Apple App Store and Google Play Store then you are safe.
For the most part.
In other words, even though the Google Play Store is not totally devoid of malicious applications, it still promises a healthy amount of mobile security.
Mobile users who have made a habit of not performing a tap on any given link that looks suspect on their smartphone devices are also safe.
If you are one of the few mobile users who follow all the guidelines we have mentioned in the previous couple of lines, then you have protected yourself against the majority of the malware and viruses that hit mobile devices on a regular basis.
The Chief Operating Office of AV-Comparatives (an independent testing firm for antivirus products), Andreas Clementi, recently mentioned to Gizmodo that assuming that the mobile user stuck only to official app stores and did not root his/her mobile device, then his firm would say that the actual risk of the user’s smartphone device becoming violated and infected with viruses in western nations was still pretty much relatively low.
With that said, he also pointed out that the low risk did not mean the exact same thing as the term no risk.
Additionally, he mentioned that the cyber threat situation regarding any platform can change dramatically and very quickly.
Some of our readers may not understand why Clementi made the distinction of western countries as opposed to just countries or any mobile user.
Well, it is because Clementi realizes the fact that the vast majority of rooted smartphone devices along with third-party application stores are only available in countries belonging to Asia.
These are the places where attempts to hack and steal, for example, baking credentials are rife.
According to the information provided by Clementi, these are the places where the threat of the emergence of dangerous apps is the greatest.
It goes without saying that if you want to make use of an app that is not available via the Google Play Store on Android or the App Store on the iOS platform, either to play games such as Fornite or test something new then you need to exercise a tremendous amount of care.
In other words, always check the app’s trustworthiness thoroughly before installing it on your device.
Moreover, you should also try to make sure that you download such an app or a service from a source that is not only trusted but also verified.
For example, if you wanted to install Fornite on your Android smartphone device then you should download the game file only from the official Epic Games website.
Now, assuming that you are one of those users who have followed all the guidelines that we have mentioned so far, then it is true that the built-in security in Android is pretty much as good as or even better than the majority of the third-party antivirus apps and security tools available in the market.
That is according to the Principal Security Researcher, Craig Young, at Tripwire VERT.
While talking with Gizmodo, Young added that as long as mobile users did not forget to follow sound security practices which included not authorizing applications to act as Device Administrators and installing os updates and patches in a regular and timely manner, it was pretty unlikely that a hacker would be able to infect their device.
Now, the point we want readers to focus on is when Young says ‘timely manner.’
That means that users who have made it a habit of delaying the update process of their devices are more at risk than the users who update as soon as updates are made available.
According to a recommendation by Andreas Clementi, users should make use of appropriate antivirus and other security software on top of their default Android OS protections.
If a mobile user practices sound judgment while handling his/her device, the actual risk of getting malware on the device becomes fairly low.
However, mobile users can lower their risk even further if they make use of a competent and trustworthy security tool on their devices running the Android operating system.
Andreas (as mentioned before, he works for AV-Comparatives) also said that installing a third-party application would also help users to cope with the latest cyber threats that app providers such as Google may not have had the chance to catch and protect against.
Generally speaking, what we want readers to understand here is that an antivirus security tool that is developed by any of the many big and well-reputed security companies and vendors should do the trick.
Users should also watch out if their antivirus app provider is being overly aggressive in areas such as the phone apps that the user is utilizing.
It should not keep too much of a strict on such things.
Here is a list of just a few of the biggest security brands that mobile users should have no problems in trusting and using on their Android smartphone devices.
Apart from that, readers should also take the time out to check sites like the official website of AV-Comparatives in order to learn more about the top Antivirus products in the market for any given year.
If you want to read AV-Comparative’s report for the Android platform then click here.
Kirsty Edwards who works as a director at Lookout (a specialist mobile security firm) also agrees with those who believe that all Android users need a little bit of extra protection in a world where hackers are launching more and more complex cyber attacks.
He recommends that apart from individual mobile users, business and enterprise users must make use of such security software.
Talking with Gizmodo, Edwards mentioned that just like all the other operating systems out there in the market, iOS, and Android to are receiving continuous updates.
And such updates included security patches.
He also said that as a matter of fact, the most recent security update that Apple rolled out for its devices in the form of iOS 12.2 did include relevant fixes to a total of 51 vulnerability flaws.
Apart from that, Edwards said, everybody knew that the likes of Google pushed out security updates and other fixes for the Android operating system almost every month.
Not only that, but Google also rolled out solutions to previous unknown but still critical mobile security vulnerabilities.
Which is more secure, the iOS or the Android?
Well, our research shows that almost all of the reputable security experts agree on this matter that Apple’s iOS platform is markedly more secure than Google’s Android platform if we’re talking about the versions that come out of the box.
Moreover, as discussed in a previous section of this guide, Apple does not give iPhone owners any option of actually installing various antivirus and other security tools for security reasons.
So there is no point in iOS users going out in the wild looking for security software for their devices.
Of course, that in no way means that malicious hackers cannot or would not target iOS users.
It is true that hackers find it hard to put spyware on an Apple iPhone device.
But it can be done.
And by no means is it anywhere near impossible.
On that note, one would also be wary of unscrupulous security software vendors that make use of enterprise developer certificates in order to upload apps which are hacked to Apple’s iOS platform.
Readers should know that these are the same security certificates which got the likes of Facebook and Google into deep trouble.
For what it is worth, Apple has recently mentioned that the company has started to take some serious steps in order to crack down the abuse of enterprise developer certificates.
However, all that means is iOS users have no reason to get complacent.
There is a lot of evidence that iOS users also need to take the necessary precautions.
How to minimize your security risk?
If you have read this far, then you would have probably understood that the actual risk of apps that are malware infected, hitting the smartphone device that you have is somewhat on the lower side.
So are there any other kind of online dangers which you should take the time out to look out for?
Well, the main one that comes to our mind is phishing.
What is phishing?
In brief, phishing happens when hackers make attempts to get online users to perform a tap on a pop-up that appears on a webpage.
Sometimes, they try to do the same with the help of a dodgy online link which is present inside an SMS or email.
Craig Young recently said all that mobile users had to do in order to get comprised was to click on a simple looking but wrong prompt and/or follow a link that is malicious and/or even just open up a text message containing something malicious.
He also said that mobile users should always exercise hyper-awareness when it comes to clicking various random prompts.
According to Craig, mobile users must also take extra care whether or not they are entering passwords into the right boxes and legitimate websites.
Generally speaking, hackers try to put up prompts which are likely to trick the user into installing an app that is unverified.
Sometimes, they want the user to grant an app some permission that the user should never grant to.
Then there are those apps that try to fool users into submitting their usernames and passwords belong to their primary accounts.
According to Kristy Edwards, as far as the mobile platform was concerned, one of the most prevalent cyber threats was phishing.
Hackers seem to recognize the fact that mobile users are more prone to click on a malicious or phishing link for the simple reason that the screen is small in size.
Moreover, mobile users usually live an on-the-go lifestyle which also hinders their patience when surfing the web.
Apart from that, because it is a smartphone device, mobile users do not have the ability to hover over a given link when they want to click on it.
Just a couple of months ago, the internet witnessed an Apple iPhone cyber phishing scam in which hackers managed to fake an official Apple customer support case ID in order to lure mobile users into giving up their sensitive and personal information.
It is true that becoming a victim of a phishing scam does not mean that hackers would infect the user’s smartphone device.
But it does mean that the victim would lose the most sensitive and important data that he/she might have on his/her smartphone device.
Again, the general precautions remain the same regardless of the platform the user is on or the type of cyber attacks.
Mobile users should always remain extremely suspicious of blindly following any link that is embedded in an email message or text message while they are on their smartphone device.
Some users may suspect that they are actually not logged to the legitimate official website of a given service.
If that is the case with you and you are still making attempts to access the site, then stop and go directly to the official website by simply typing out the related URL via your web browser before you actually log in.
We have already mentioned the fact that if you take the time out to switch to the very secure two-factor authentication methods that many services now offer then you can drastically improve your chances of never getting scammed.
Simply put, methods such as two-factor authentication can put a stop to all phishing attacks right in their tracks.
Several months ago, security researchers discovered one of such phishing attacks being launched via specific Android applications.
Perhaps this is a good time to mention once again that you should always get suspicious of an app that requests overreaching permissions.
In themselves, such apps may not look like malware and are probably not (because that is the only way they are going to get a listing on any of the official app stores), however, you do not need us to tell you that they could make attempts to harvest the user’s data.
And that is not something you should be giving away in any case.
According to Andreas Clementi, any app which is supposed to do nothing but count the total steps that a given mobile user takes in a given day has zero need of accessing the call log of the phone book of the user.
This is actually a pretty solid example of an app involved in data overreach.
With that said, assuming that an app actually behaves exactly like that, it still does not mean for sure that the app is something fraudulent or malware.
However, what we are saying here is that users should notice such behavior and start considering whether the app is worthy of usage and/or genuine.
Our experience tells us that with the state of the online world in modern times, it makes the most sense to just stick to the recognized and established apps rather than take risks and experiment with a ton of new Android or iOS apps that pop up each and every month.
The more new apps that you try, the more you open yourself up to apps that act as data-harvesting plants.
With that said, we should mention here that sometimes such data-gathering apps cleverly disguise themselves as utility applications and video games.
So not fall for this cover as these same apps can also launch malicious activities on your device.
Now, there is nothing wrong in trying out new apps.
What we are saying is that you should keep an eye on the app’s reviews that people leave on the Google Play Store and the App Store.
Moreover, you should also take a look at the software developers behind the app and their history.
Then you should give some thought to how the app is actually supposed to make money.
These are just some of the pointers that we want you to keep in mind the next time you want to try out a new app either on your Android device or on your iOS one.
Both Android and iOS have taken steps to make it progressively easy for users to manage app permissions.
All you have to do is to go to Settings on iOS and tap any given app to see all its permissions.
For Android, you need to tap on Settings and then on Apps & Notifications and then on App permissions.
And do not forget to sign up for a good VPN to protect your data from hackers and other cyber criminals.
Click here to learn more about the best VPNs in the world right now.