App Attack #026: A for Android, S for Security (Updated)

App Attack #026: A for Android, S for Security (Update)

App Attack #026: A for Android, S for Security

Smartphones and tablets have become miniaturized computers in this day and age - so what does this entail? Putting your private and personal information for sensitive transactions, such as banking, at risk, that’s what it is. In Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, there has been a significant increase of vulnerabilities across all mobile operating systems, from 115 in 2009 to 163 in 2010. Of course, prominent operating systems like Apple and Android are not spared as well.

While the number of threats to mobile devices remain low compared to those targeting PCs, new developments have shown that mobile phone users are increasingly becoming more vulnerable to phishing attacks or data-swiping Trojan malware. These malicious software are made to seem like legitimate applications and are then uploaded to the respective app marketplace for unsuspecting users to download and install. 

This is where anti-virus and security apps come in handy. We have listed some below for your consideration.

A Quick Comparison
App Kaspersky Mobile Security 9 McAfee Mobile Security Norton Mobile Security Trend Micro Mobile Security Personal Edition for Android avast! Free Mobile Security
Web Console No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Backup & Restore No Yes Yes (Contacts only) No No
Virus Scanner Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
App Management No Yes No No Yes
Web Protection No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Remote Wipe / Tracking Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
SMS Call and Filter Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Network Meter No No No No Yes


Kaspersky Mobile Security

Price: S$18.95 for one-year subscription / Free (Kaspersky Mobile Security Lite) / S$24.95 for one-year subscription (Kaspersky Tablet Security)
Category: Tools
Platforms: Google Android 2.2 and later
Off the bat, the Kaspersky Mobile Security app takes its cues from its desktop offerings, splattering its user interface with a green color scheme and tabbed menus. It is a straightforward, no-frills option that does not come with a web console. As such, its anti-theft features rely heavily on SMS commands - users send from another device to remote lock, wipe or track its location. We noticed that there are more comprehensive virus scan options, which not only allow you to decide the frequency of which they occur but also what type of files to scan. The app can be configured to alert someone else when your phone is lost or when the SIM card in your phone is being switched – however, in this case, you are limited to only one number and email address as opposed to McAfee’s nine numbers. Also, it doesn’t come with backup or restore capabilities. To add on, there’s no web protection either.

It, however, comes with a feature called Privacy Protection. What it does is hide information related to specific contact numbers. When options are activated, users can completely hide the entries in their address book, incoming text messages and calls, and message and call logs.

The app is compatible with Google Android smartphones and tablets (Android 2.2 and later), and is also offered on BlackBerry 4.5 to 6.0 OS, and Symbian ^3, Anna, Belle, S60 platforms, and Windows Mobile 5.0 to 6.5. Additionally, there’s a tablet-optimized version for those who are currently using Android tablets.


McAfee Mobile Security

Price: Free trial version for seven days / S$35.95 for one-year subscription
Category: Tools
Platforms: Google Android 1.6 and later

Out of all the apps, the McAfee Mobile Security app is probably the one with the most attractive user interface. However, what truly sets the app apart from other anti-virus apps is that it comes with the ability to backup, restore and view vital files and information (contacts, SMSes, call-logs, media) on a personal web account tied to a secure online server at At the same time, the online dashboard also allows users to perform other tasks such as seeking out its location, locking the phone and setting an alarm to make the phone 'scream'. The other unique feature that the app has is one that is called McAfee App Protection, which provides users an overview of what your downloaded apps are doing with your personal information and prompts you to delete it if it puts your privacy at risk. To further add on, the app often requires users - more so than the rest of the apps - to key in its 6-digit security PIN while you open the app or occasionally while using its features, so that adds an extra layer of security.

Aside from that, the app offers the usual dish of protection features such as scheduled and tailored anti-virus scanning, remote locate/lock/wipe, web protection, calls and SMS filtering.

The app is compatible with Google Android smartphones and tablets (Android 2.1 and later), and is also offered on BlackBerry 4.5 to 7.0 OS and Symbian ^3 and S60 platforms. iOS users who want to have a taste of it can look out for McAfee Wave Secure on the App Store, an older version of the McAfee Mobile Security app. If you have kids, you might want to complement this with the McAfee Family Protection app, specifically aimed at keeping your children away from inappropriate content on mobile devices.


Norton Mobile Security

Price: S$18.99 (One-year subscription) / Free (Norton Mobile Security Lite)
Category: Tools
Platforms: Google Android 2.1 and later / iOS 4.3 and later

Like all the apps here, the Norton Mobile Security app comes dressed with an easy to use, clear cut menu interface. The app comes with primarily four core functions: Anti-Theft, Anti-Malware, Call & SMS Blocking and Web Protection, which, frankly, aren’t much different from what the rest of the apps offer. Unlike McAfee Mobile Security, it does not come with backup and restore functions - the focus here is very much on future-proofing your phone (in case of loss), and protecting your privacy and information. Of course, there are a few characteristics unique to the app. For instance, the Norton Mobile anti-virus scan comes with an option that allows you to enable a function known as Norton Community Watch. This program collects selected data and submits to Symantec for analysis, in a hope to weed out new threats and sources. The app also relies on a different buddy system of sorts; instead, it allows nominated contacts to help unlock your phone in the instance where you have forgotten your pass code.

Last but not least, the app prompts users to install the Norton Anti-Theft plugin, a handy essential that leads to the setting up of a web account at While it isn’t as immersive as McAfee’s web experience, it allows you to do a couple of nifty things which include remote locking and tracking your phone (frequency ranges from 1 to 24 hours, when selected). Locking your device triggers Lost Mode, which involves the activation of a nifty feature called Sneak Peek. Your device’s camera will take and upload a picture every 10 minutes while it is online; these can be seen on your web account.

Users who don’t need such extensive security features can opt out for the watered down and free Norton Mobile Security Lite app. Otherwise, family-oriented users can look towards downloading the Norton Safety Minder to install on your child’s phone or Norton Online Family to track your entire family’s usage pattern and history.

Norton has since added backup capabilities for contacts and support for iOS devices though the app is less full-fledged than its Android counterpart.


Trend Micro Mobile Security Personal Edition

Price: Free trial version for 30 days / US$29.95 (One-year subscription) / S$59.90 (Two-year subscription)
Category: Tools
Platforms: Google Android 2.2 and later

The Trend Micro Mobile Security Personal Edition for Android app comes with a simple tabbed user interface, one that we found conducive for customizing features. It is probably closest to the Norton Mobile Security app in terms of offerings. Like McAfee Mobile Security, the app comes with the ability to filter text with specific keywords. Notably, it comes with the most comprehensive call/text blocking features out of the four apps, allowing users to choose from a host of applicable actions for contacts that have been blocked (reject call, silence device, reject call and send reply, et al); additionally, calls that come from unknown numbers can be disconnected within three seconds if the option is selected.

The same goes for its web protection security functions – the Trend Micro app extends the experience with its Parental and Safe Surfing parameters, allowing users to choose their favored levels (Parental: Teen, Pre-teen, Child; Safe Surfing: Low, Normal, High) of web protection. Lastly, the Trend Micro app tops it off with the usual palate of lost device protection features. Users are prompted to set up a Trend Micro account once the app starts up for the first time – these details are used to log in at

The app is compatible with Google Android smartphones and tablets (Android 2.2 and later) with different variations made for Symbian S60, S60 5th edition and Windows Mobile 5.0/6.0/6.x.


avast! Free Mobile Security

Price: Free
Category: Tools
Platforms: Google Android 2.1 and late
If you are looking for a free and great mobile security app, avast! Free Mobile Security is one of the many that comes without a fee and still provides the full suite of security features. Like the rest mentioned in this series, the app comes with core services like virus scanning, web protection, SMS/Call filter options and anti-theft options (Like Norton, it requires the installation of a separate component).

Of course, it does come with extra goodies that some of the rest are lacking in. Like McAfee, the avast! app provides users an overview of what your downloaded apps are doing with your personal information (track location, access messages, and so forth); to add on, you can also manage running apps by force closing those you don't require. And if you are one of those ambitious Android users who have rooted their devices, the app allows you to enable firewall protection against hackers.

The niftiest addition, however, goes to a built-in network meter that tracks your 3G, Wi-Fi and even Roaming data exchanges from your data billing day (configurable via settings) till the end of a month. Once you click on each individual app for information on your data consumption, the details are visible by day/month/year, giving users a concise breakdown on your data habits.

The app is compatible with Google Android smartphones and tablets (Android 2.1 and later) and does not support any other platform as of now. At the moment, there are some plans for iOS platform, but nothing certain or specific is given according to its official website.


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