Malware has definitely gone mobile. According to report from Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Android was the second most targeted platform by hackers (behind Windows) in 2015. The report warns that hackers are increasingly targeting financial transactions, such the recent attack on social-media apps designed to steal banking information.

How to protect your phone

You should take preventive measures: Set a screen-lock password, for example, and keep your apps up to date. See our tips for securing your Android phone.

A second key protection is to install and use an antivirus or security app. You of course want one that accurately detects malware -- and does it without a lot of fuss. Many apps do both well, but to find out how they stack up, check AV-Test, an independent lab that performs monthly tests on security apps.

Most Android security apps go beyond guarding against intrusions, offering a variety of services, from antitheft controls to call blocking. While many of these functions are built in to the Android OS (Google's Android Device Manager can help you locate a lost device, for example), it can be convenient to have all the capabilities in one app.

Antivirus and other security features to look for

Some security apps let you add features a la carte so you can tailor the protection to match your preferences; other offer most of the tools by default. Consider these capabilities when choosing an Android security app:

Malware detection is critical. Look for a security app that is a good match for your temperament. Some can be alarmist. Others constantly pester you. Most seem ever vigilant, while a few are so unintrusive you can't tell if they are on duty. Many of security companies offers free versions of their apps, so you can take them out for test drives before committing.


Antitheft controls allow you to locate and track a misplaced phone. If the phone is unrecoverable, you can use the tool to remotely lock and wipe the contents of your phone.


Password managers keep track of all your passwords -- for websites and apps -- and lets you activate them with just one master password. This is beyond handy if you follow best practices and create unique, strong, and unrememberable passwords for everything.

Phone call and message filtering lets you block unwanted phone calls and SMS messages by adding phone numbers to a blacklist.


Network and Web monitoring helps you surf the Web safely by notifying you when you are connecting to a risky Wi-Fi network or browsing to a shady website.


App locking lets you password-protect individual apps and even hide them to protect your privacy.

A VPN, or virtual private network, lets you create a secure and private link across a public network. If you use public Wi-Fi networks, a VPN can shield your data from eavesdroppers.

See our guide for recommendations on picking an antivirus app for your Android device.

Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.