Review: McAfee Mobile Security for Android analyzes risk

Version 3 integrates the level of privacy risk of apps on the Play Store to help you make better-informed decisions.

MMS version 3 adds several new features that include custom profile setups, improved analysis of data exposure, and backup operations over Wi-Fi. These updates come alongside Mobile Security's Basic free tier features, which come with mobile antivirus, anti-theft, and backup services. McAfee's mobile efforts focus on using both preventative and recovery measures during worst-case scenarios, with a Premium service that also comes with extra features.

According to Ari Jaaksi, McAfee's SVP of Mobile Engineering, "When consumers contemplate securing their smartphones and tablets, they often think in terms of their susceptibility to mobile malware, overlooking the very real threat to their privacy should their devices become lost or stolen."

Even with security software in place, McAfee's movement toward teaching users how to prevent unsafe mobile habits is indicated by the new risk reports of each. Mobile Security is now directly integrated with McAfee's own Global Threat Intelligence network, which catalogs and analyzes the threat level of an app. The intention is to guide a user's decision on whether to use an app and inform them of any suspicious app behavior and data exposure to risky sites. McAfee believes this approach helps users to make better decisions on which apps to accept and which to avoid.

The number of scores available for apps are still on the low end, but McAfee seemed very proactive in continuously updating the risk scores for each new app. My only question is how often these ratings will be maintained as software developers update at different times.

McAfee's backup and restoration features work well for the most part: you can choose to back up your most important data on your phone:

  • Contacts
  • Call Logs
  • Text Messages
  • SD Card
  • Photos
  • Videos

And while they do add value (if you were strictly using McAfee), many of these are functions that come standard out of the box for many Android phones today; Google automatically syncs your contacts, photos, and videos, and it does it fairly well. Still, it's a nice addition to have and McAfee's approach does make it easier to manage on an individual level.

McAfee Mobile Security also lets you create custom user profiles. This means you can have custom settings for different users, each with unique access to a set of apps or files on your device. We imagine it to be used by those who enable it before passing their phone around to family members or friends. The App Profiles feature lets you control various elements of your phone, like specific apps to display and hide. If you're too impatient for Android 4.3 to roll out to your phone (which will include a similar feature by default), this may be able to hold you until then.

We recommend the app if you're the type of person looking for a bit more guidance on reducing risky privacy leaks from downloading apps on the Play Store. Though it's not exactly an active solution to indiscriminately downloading whatever you want, as the nature of viruses and malware are a bit different from a desktop, McAfee Mobile Security is a good way to develop a better practice for distinguishing trustworthy apps vs. the more questionable ones, especially as trickier apps start to flood the Play Store.

Premium users also get access to McAfee's Hidden Device Admin Detector, which prevents apps from unauthorized admin-level commands from being run on your Android device.

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