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Report: Mobile security apps prove themselves

Over the past couple of months – from July through August – researchers at have torture-tested mobile security products from fourteen well-known vendors.

They used real phones, not emulators, for the test, specifically Samsung Galaxy S plus phones running Android 2.3. For once, every tested product performed well. They earned good or great detection scores against real world malware, with no score lower than 93 per cent and many much higher. The products all did well in the rigorous battery drain test, too.

Avast, Bitdefender, ESET, F-Secure, Ikarus, Kaspersky, Qihoo, Trend Micro, and TrustGo all detected 98 to 100 per cent of the samples. AV-Comparatives suggests that these offerings should be considered equally effective, without worrying about the tiny differences in the actual scores. Lookout, McAfee, Sophos, and Webroot all fell into the next sample range, from 93 to 98 per cent detection. This is still a good result, according to the report, and all products were in the nice and healthy green segments of the chart which you can see at the top of this article, if you prefer a visual representation of the study.

AV-Comparatives Mobile Test

In addition to checking thousands of in-the-wild Android threats, researchers installed 200 popular safe programs on each test phone, checking to be sure the security software didn't erroneously identify any of these as malicious. In every case, the security program correctly left the valid programs alone, with no false positive identifications.

For the battery drain test, the researchers used an elaborate measuring device that replaces the battery and reports in great detail on the amount of power being used. To avoid data fluctuations due to system load, they set up their own wireless LAN and 3G sources. Based on a survey of mobile users, they created a profile of normal system activities such as making calls, browsing the web, and checking email. They measured the battery drain while performing these tasks with and without security products.

The drain attributable to the security products was never more than about two per cent. To put it another way, adding a security tool will cost less than 30 minutes per day in terms of battery life. The report does point out that cloud-based solutions such as Webroot generally use more power than those which are strictly signature-based.

The full report goes into great detail about the feature sets of the covered products, although it does also offer a summary of the various individual product’s strengths. To outline a few elements of this, Avast Mobile Security is picked out as a good free offering to grab, and is labelled as a “very well thought-out” security product.

ESET Mobile Security is highlighted as boasting the “most modern security components for smartphones.” F-Secure Mobile Security is pointed out as a good offering for those who wish to utilise parental controls on their (or their children’s) smartphones.

The report summary also notes that Kaspersky is good for privacy, allowing users to hide the likes of incoming text messages, their call history and contacts.

If you’ve time to read the full report, take a look here.