Android Virus Protection: “BS Software” from “Scammers” Says Googler


I always cringe when I see companies selling Android Anti-Virus software. But when my RSS reader fills up with stories about percentage increases of mobile malware and how consumers NEED protect themselves immediately? I consider snapping my phone in half for two main reasons:

  • The best protection is being a smart consumer. Download apps/products from companies you know. If you don’t know them, do your research: take note of their rating, read the customer reviews, see what permissions they require, and ensure yourself that the app is safe to use before downloading.
  • We’re so used to malware, trojans, and computer viruses that these software makers are extending the fear to mobile, making a quick buck by preying on the fears of the uninformed.

An Information Week article by Eric Zeman exposes the annoying and outrageous claims of these anti-malware makers, but more interestingly, it includes the take of some disturbed Googlers. Here is a comment from Google’s open-source guru, Chris DiBona:

“Virus companies are playing on your fears to try to sell you bs protection software for Android, RIM and IOS,” he wrote on Google+. “They are charlatans and scammers. If you work for a company selling virus protection for android, RIM or iOS you should be ashamed of yourself.”

Although there HAVE been some issues with banking apps and spam apps in the past, they have usually been obvious ploy and traps into which the uncareful consumer falls. If an app helps you identify which apps/games are potentially harmful in addition to using your own tuition… is it worth it? I think so. But maybe tweak the name and stop pumping out white papers about how mobile malware is on the rise so you can sell more mobile anti-virus software.

What’s your take on the Android Virus Protection issue? And mobile anti-virus in general?

[Via @TimBray]

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. i like Lookout (Free).  i installed it for the “Find My Phone” feature. the “Anti-Virus” feature is just gravy.  it’s free, lightweight, has good support and is updated regularly, and it’s a reputable company.

    1. And completely unnecessary, unless of course you are installing apps from your suspicious 3rd party app stores or have a habit of installing APKs from Bill Gates offering you a million dollars.

      1. “And completely unnecessary”…

        What should he be using for “Find My Phone” functionality if not the free version of Lookout?

        1. My HTC Vivid has ‘Find My Phone’ built-in; but I’ve turned it off.

          Regardless, the article is about “anti-virus security software”; not “I’m an idiot and lost my phone software”.

          1. Regardless, the article is about “anti-virus security software”
            But you stated that Lookout was unnecessary in response to his ‘comment’ that he uses it for location purposes, not the article.

            While you may consider people who lose their phones ‘idiots’, how about when the phone is stolen?

        2. I used Where’s my droid to find my phone. 

        3. Seekdroid works well too. 

    2. I used Lookout when I first got my phone, and let me tell you that it is NOT lightweight. I ended up uninstalling it after running it for a month or 2, and my phone was 10x faster without it.

  2. I’ve never heard of an actual virus on android–something that could install without your permission.

    But yeah, I have a hard time taking any of the malware claims seriously when the “researchers” happen to sell an anti-malware product.

    1. There has been malware (adware/spyware) but I haven’t heard about any real viruses either. And as long as you don’t download from the 3rd party app stores, 99% of the people out there won’t get any of the malware either. The community does a pretty good job of policing the Market. When something like that shows up, they report it and Google removes it quickly. (Quickly = within a matter of minutes, I’ve seen it happen a few times.)

  3. I stay away from any such-called “Security software”. It makes the phone slower, consumes battery and is imho totally unnecessary 

    1. Actually that’s not always the case.  I’ve been using Lookout for over 10 months now and have not noticed any decrease in performance OR battery life.  Lookout does not run in the background and is only activated when you download an app, which it scans before it’s installed on your device.  You can also set it up to do a weekly, daily, etc scan of all your files.  Plus it has a great feature that will find your phone via GPS if it’s lost or stolen, even if it’s turned off.  Sure, one could say it’s unnecessary and you should “be careful and know what you’re downloading”, but a little piece of mind never hurt anyone.  You can point out pros and cons with ANYTHING in life, this is just another example of that.

      1. Well it does run in the background. Otherwise it couldn’t start the scan when downloading.
        The company of Lookout jumped the shark for me, when talking lies about Android malware, while sitting behind their damn MacBooks. First I thought they are just Apple-Trolls, but now, they just wan to make money.

        And it consumes battery. You can check this with some tools. Possibly even with the Battery usage feature in Android. Plus I don’t trust such apps. They scan everything you install. So you have to trust this app. I don’t trust such companies that tells lies to sell their products.

      2. Has lookout ever detected anything “malware” on your device

        Take a hint buddy

  4. thanks Mr. Rob Jackson.. Phandroid make me proud. engadget n gsm-arena is off for this story. they are is friends of the “scammers”

  5. I read this article on CNET….3 days ago..

  6. Until these so-called “antivirus researchers” show hard numbers, instead of percentages, I’m not in the least bit interested. 432% gain! Scary! But in hard numbers that could be from 20 to 86 instances of a malware infection. 

  7. Do your research, there have been plenty of malware apps on the android Market, and they haven’t always been removed “quickly” as you put it.  Sometimes not for days and after hundreds and even thousands of downloads.  I’d rather be safe than sorry.

    1. That assumes of course that these 3rd party apps offer defense – not always and perhaps not often true

  8. I have never believed that the anti-virus apps were needed, but yet, Phandroid wrote several articles for Lookout earlier this year that claimed that it was a really good app.

  9. I  use lookout(free) and to be honest I don’t agree, I don’t think it’s a scam. People who claim you don’t need antivirus software haven’t changed in 20 years, in the beginning no one thought windows needed antivirus software, it does. 
    It was thought apple was impervious to viruses they aren’t.

    Android is an up an coming virus target, it’s not the weakness of the system that lures virus makers, it’s the size of the installation base.
    Maybe some or even most of the bad stuff out there is obvious right now, but it won’t always be, virus writers will get smarter and use it for more and more damaging means.
    Not only will it not always be obvious, and smart tech guys do occasionally get viruses, but these posts ignore the fact that the vast majority of the public will never be like us, they won’t notice the obvious warning signs, for them the antivirus software is essential, so treating antivirus software makers as scammers is just wrong.

    The system slowdown argument is a moot point, yes we all know that antivirus software uses ram and cpu, it’s a neccesary evil. I use AOSP so ram isn’t usaully an issue for me and lookout doesn’t seem to slow my thunderbolt down at all. That said I use lookout just in case because a rooted phone is slightly more vulnerable than stock and I don’t want to take chances with all of the personal information on my phone. All my email, bank info, passwords etc, talk about a prime target for identity theft.

  10. Although this content is admittedly dated, I believe it to be accurate.  We have seen the “scare relieved by my AV software” cycle MANY times.  I insist most of these “scares” are not as scary if you just read the permissions being requested.

  11. There are soooo many malicious apps out there for Android…Last year it had like 2, and this year it had like 8. That’s like a 472% increase!

  12. If all it took was being a “smart consumer”, we wouldn’t need anti-virus on Windows software either.  This is ignorant.  The Android community preaches how great Android is for everyone, yet turn their heads in obscurity about this genuine problem.

    Man up and admit it.  While Android is great of the technically-saavy and does have a place in the mobile space, it’s a horrible system for the joe-consumer that simply does not want to bother with system resources, malware, etc.. on a phone!

    1. The need for anti-virus in the Windows world is not entirely the fault of “less than smart” consumers.. In trying to make Windows more user friendly MS has a system that makes it (or made it) dreadfully easy to run and install things behind the scenes.. First in the OS, and then what’s worse was to continue the madness with Active-X in the browser.. the idea was to make things simple for the technically challenged to just click, and those complicated things are done without freaking out the poor user.. The source of applications also plays a big part it this as well.. The reason Linux doesn’t have the problems of the Windows world, is because users get their software from central repositories that have a vetting system. The way Linux (and Android) handle executables, and software distribution have little comparison to the Windows world and is actually better and safer for the technically challenged who will waste money on unnecessary anti-virus crapware.

      1. Linux doesn’t have virus’ because of it’s UAC model. Same for Mac. There is a difference between Malware and a virus. Virus’ spread – windows have virus because you can easily infect multiple windows PC’s across a network – not so with Mac and Linux.

        But esstentially, your right – if you only install software from a trusted source, you should be fine…. although I hate the iTunes app distribution (the whole wait for approval, and how long they take to approve), that sort of vetting system will stop Malware getting through.

        Incidentally, I don’t run windows on any many box at home (linux/mac), I do have a couple of VM’s – one gets run a lot, about 3-4 years old, never got a virus on it.

  13. Will not troll will not troll. But ill say this I don’t use virus protection I.agree with article. The stories I heard of malware people were pirating software so I see it poetic justice if you want to rip off the developer you get what comes to you

  14. To clear this up – need for a Malware scanner – possibly – if you like using brand new apps that no one else has used yet, and you download from not vetted market places.

    The need for virus protection…. 100% pointless.

  15. I had lookout on my OG DROID, and I had it on my DROID 3 until reading this article. I realized that lookout had done nothing, except offer piece of mind if I lost my device. I uninstalled lookout and saw a vast improvement in device speed and stability. The battery might be better too, but I am not sure yet. Glad I read this and realized how useless it was!

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