My father in law got an Android and maybe out of habit from using Windows decided to install an antivirus application. I cringed to hear this, thinking it’s an unnecessary waste of resources and if he wants to stay safe all he has to do is not enable sideloading (which he wouldn’t, and even if he did he’d get a big loud warning). And whenever he installs something to eyeball the permission notices to see if he’s comfortable with something having access to this or that. Don’t want Tango to upload your contacts? Hit cancel.

In addition to being a waste of phone resources (CPU, storage, memory, battery) and money, I’m also a little concerned that whatever he thinks is an antivirus program is more likely than any other software to be malicious, in terms of something bad masquerading as antivirus, or something that looks like it’s doing something but really isn’t, … argh.

Also it’s a pride thing for me. All right? I admit that. But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. And no I did not pressure him in any way to buy an Android; rather, like the largest cluster of phone-buyers worldwide today, it was his own decision to go Google (from WinMo, had an HD).

And now his wife thinks she needs it, my mother in law, as she got a work email on her Blackberry, the Exchange server or BES or whatever tagged it as being a virus, now she’s freaked that she’s got a phone, computer and server virus for the company as a result, everything’s got a virus especially her phone and like her husband she should get some antivirus thing for her Blackberry right away.

So what’s the story people, antivirus for phones, is it cool or is it whack? Might as well make a poll:

[poll id="108"]

Oh, don’t forget to turn this into a platform flamewar.

Doug Simmons


  1. as the word “antivirus” yes its stupid. “viruses” as a type of malware pretty much only on windows. while you can get malware on most any platform but nothing i would call a virus, just a program that gets installed. on android if youre not rooted, and have unknown sources disabled, and dont install small badly written chinese apps, you wont ever get any malware on your phone. that said i do use an “antivirus”, lookout mobile security, but for locating my lost phone and stuff like that. its frankly useless as an antivirus as it only scans your installed apps names for baddies on a list.

  2. Android according to many official news reports is more vulnerable to infections comparing to other smartphone platforms. Now the situation is not sever to a point where you can almost pick something up on every 10th random site you visit. But personally I probably would be mindful and cautious of what I put on my device in terms of apps and etc. Not necessary a antivirus though, that’s kinda silly on the phone… Though who knows situation might get worse in terms of security in general and Androids are probably ones to take hit the most as they are most open platform. But antivirus on phone is kinda sad though, its like “excuse me can I use your phone to make a quick call” where you go ” Sorry wait sec my Norton is scanning my Android for viruses…”. I really like how Windows Phone and iOS are in terms of security comparing to Android, where WP sandboxes the apps you run making phone OS core isolated.

  3. Wasn’t aware Android didn’t do such app activity isolation or sandboxing. Did you get that from those many official reports?

    Can you find me one single link that when I go to it I’ll get a malware infection of any sort? Shouldn’t take you long based on your estimate, one in ten.. I’d really like to see this in action.

  4. I remember a TED talk where a security firm, who does provide anti-virus for mobile phones, gave a presentation about the tracking/pinpoint a special malicious piece of software.

    It started when a man noticed his phone making a phone call in the middle of the night. Never happened again from what he could see. The call was to a US-looking number that charged like $0.11 or something for the 1 minute. Hardly would ever notice on ur bill, right?

    Well, apparently he was not the only one. Hundreds of thousands had the same thing, every few months.

    The security firm tracked it to a very common game people were playing. It was a free game on their phones, and was actually quite decent quality.

    What’s more bazaar is tracing the number. Apparently u can buy a US number from overseas and charge and long distance cost u want – and have it deposit into the foreign bank with no identity. They really attempted to identify them, but where protected by this shadow layer. They even provide the source of the number in the TED talk.

    So yes, anti-virus on phones, especially on mom and pop’s phone, is essential.

  5. As an ex WM guy I can’t hate Android phones for needing it because effectively Android is a new flavour of WM. Although Apple has proven that it’s not neccessary. I’m glad to see MS learning from Apple having done it right and seeing Google repeating MS’s old mistake. Come Mango baby!

  6. actually does have app isolation, its called linux. apps dont run as the root user so they cant harm vital system functions. as long as you dont root, you shouldnt worry, and even then…

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