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Android antivirus gets stronger in latest round of testing

Every few months, AV-Test releases the results of their Android malware protection testing. In this round of testing, the independent German lab pitted Android security apps against thousands of malware samples. The results? More good news for Android.

Defeating malware

This round of testing included 30 security apps and 2,191 pieces of malware. The results were very encouraging for Android users, with the average detection rate slipping only slightly to 96 per cent.

Most of the apps had detection rates above 90 per cent, and quite a few managed to detect 100 per cent of the malicious samples. These overachievers included Aegislab, Ahnlab, Antiy, Avira, Editors' Choice Bitdefender, GData, Ikarus, Kaspersky, Kingsoft, KSMobile, McAfee, Qihoo,Symantec's Norton, Trend Micro, and TrustGo.

SPAMFighter came in dead last with 36.1 per cent, with Zoner close behind at 67.5 per cent. Both failed to receive certification from AV-Test. It's worth noting that these two apps are no strangers to the bottom of the list.

Beyond detection

With so many sky-high scores, AV-Test considers other factors to help differentiate security apps. Each app receives a usability score that looks at impact to the user. Apps that perform well in this category don't adversely affect battery life or greatly slow down the device, and so on. AV-Test awards up to six points for this category.

AV-Test gives another point for including additional features, like anti-theft tools and call blocking. Most security apps now include at least some of these features, though SPAMFighter notably neglected them.

That makes for a total of 13 possible points, and it's not surprising that many apps achieved a perfect score. This included Qihoo, McAfee, KSMobile, Kingsoft, G Data, Bitdefender, and Avira.

A full breakdown of the scores is in the graphic below. Note that apps can score up to six points on AV-Test's scale for malware detection.

But are you safe?

With a landslide of perfect scores, it's easy to feel like Android security is simply "taken care of" and not something users should be worried about. Unfortunately, that's just not true. The Android malware landscape is constantly changing and the number of threats has exploded in just the past year.

New malware — sometimes just re-written version of existing threats — is popping up all the time, and sometimes the security companies get caught flat-footed. That's what happened in October, when the average detection rate in AV-Test's results slid six percentage points.

As Security Watch readers know, malware isn't even the biggest threat to your device. Simple theft, info-leaking apps, spam, and phishing attacks can do even more damage than a malicious app. Installing security software on your Android is a critical first step to staying safe, but users need to be vigilant.