Android AntiVirus Software and Malware

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  • DevynCJohnson
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    • @devyncjohnson

    Any operating system is susceptible to malware. Android is a popular Linux-based operating system for mobile phones which is also susceptible to malware. Malware for Android is rare, but it does exist. Obviously, if malware exists, then so does anti-virus software for Android systems. It is important to have a basic understanding of Android malware and anti-virus software.

    General Info

    A "mobile virus" is a piece of malware that infects mobile phones. Such malware may corrupt the operating system, remove personal files, send private information, etc. Mobile viruses have many ways of spreading.

    "Mobile worms" are mobile viruses that are able to reproduce without user-interaction. Such worms may send themselves to other phones via SMS (Short Message Service) or MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service). Also, worms can travel across Bluetooth networks (such as the Symbian-OS worm named "Cabir").

    Trojans require user-interaction. Therefore, they must hide in other software or appear to be some other app. For instance, there was an "Angry Birds Transformers" game that was hacked and then released on unofficial Android app stores. Users who installed this app got the real game, but with some additions. The game contained malicious code that would display messages that said "Obey or be hacked". This trojan also texted the message to people in the contacts list.

    FUN FACT: The first mobile virus was "Timofonica". This malware sent itself to other phones via SMS in Spain.


    To protect mobile systems from malware, there are multiple security practices that users can perform. To protect against trojans, try not to install software from unofficial Android app stores or unknown/untrusted sources. Google Play and the Amazon Appstore are generally safe to the best of Google and Amazon's knowledge.

    If the user does not intend on installing apps from third-party sources, then the user should disable sideloading. Sideloading is the ability to install third-party apps. This can be enabled or disabled by tapping the “Unknown Sources” setting which is found under "Settings > Applications" or "Settings > Security".

    Users should avoid ads that claim that the user's phone needs a free virus scan or needs a repair/fix. These ads may scam the user for money or introduce malware.

    Another way to protect against malware is to install anti-virus software on Android devices. Many anti-virus software is available for Android. Some are free and others require payment. It is best that users only install anti-virus software from the Google Play Store and the Amazon Appstore.

    NOTE: Many anti-virus software contains "in-app purchases" and/or "pro" versions.

    Notable Malware

    One of the worst Android viruses was "NotCompatible". This malware would infect Android devices that allowed sideloading. The user would go to an infected website. The phone would download a file titled "Update.apk". The system would then ask the user if the APK file can be installed. Notice that this infection had two chances of prevention. The infection could have been prevented if the user did not allow anything to be installed and if sideloading were disabled. Remember, never install anything unless you know what it is and its use/purpose.

    The first Android trojan was named "Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.FakePlayer.a" and was found by Kaspersky Labs in 2010. "Gingermaster" is another Android trojan that infected Android 2.3 devices and stole various information.


    It is estimated that of all of the different mobile phones and mobile operating systems that Android is the most susceptible. This is due to the fact that Android has most of the market share. As a result, malware developers will be more likely to create malware for Android. According to, in 2013, 97% of mobile malware was targeted towards Android.

    FUN FACT: iOS is probably the most secure mobile operating system according to some sources ( ).

    Further Reading

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