There's a new player in the Android security software game, and it's one many of us are already familiar with -- BitDefender. They have released a mobile security suite that's full of functions like malware scanning, application auditing for privacy compromising features, and even some remote administration should you happen to lose your phone somehow. With a pre-paid SIM card in hand, a new Google account, BitDefender installed and a laundry list of sites full of content I shouldn't be visiting from my phone to test this one out, I gave this one a good once-over and feel pretty good about recommending it . Hit the break to see the features, a download link, and a slew of pictures.
The most talked about part of any Android security software, and probably the least necessary, is malware scanning. Yes, malware exists. No it's not very common. And it's easy to stay safe -- only install applications you trust, just like you would on your computer. If you need a bit of extra defense, BitDefender seems to work fine in this area when presented with a file it should find suspicious. In this case it's a "one-click-rooter" named z4root, which isn't a bad app but it shares some code with apps that could be bad. BitDefender found it right away, and gives an option to delete it. To me, this is the perfect test -- it's not a false positive because there's code in z4root that roots your phone (step one for many trojans like DroidDream), and it's not an app so blatantly wrong that anyone would guess it contained malware. Every "bad" file I scanned was found. BitDefender gets an "A" for malware scanning.
Simply put, some apps are bad, and some good apps do suspicious things. It's important to differentiate between the two, and most security software suites for Android have a utility to scan installed apps and see what permissions they may have to concern you. This is a double edged sword, because most of us don't understand permissions enough to be making a judgment. A game needs to know phone state so it can pause when a call comes in. An app with online preferences needs to know your device ID to save your settings. We tend to get suspicious too often, but in the end that's a better thing than not caring at all. BitDefender does a fine job showing you what apps can access the Internet, what apps have access to your private data (location, address book, call log), and what apps can cost you money by making calls or sending texts. The decision what to do with these apps is left up to you, as it should be.
The single best part of any Android security software suite is the tools included to help you track, find, and remotely wipe your phone should you lose possession of it. BitDefender does a fine job here as well. Through the BitDefender website, you can track your phone's location, send an alert (audio and visual) to it, lock access to it, and wipe it clean once you decide you'll never get it back. Exactly the tools we look for in a security app. We do have to note that only Geolocation is available in the free version, but you do get a 14 day trial to test the other features. If you decide they are worthy, a premium subscription is $10 per year.
Tracking your phone
It's simple, and works very well. Visit the BitDefender website, log in, and click a button to find out where your phone is. We like it when there's no fuss involved, and BitDefender fits that bill. But more importantly, what can you do when you find it? BitDefender has you covered there as well.
From the website, you can remotely set up a PIN lock on your phone at any time. It works very well, and ties into the native Android PIN lockscreen function. Click a button, enter the four-digit number you want to use for the PIN, and click OK. Once the phone screen turns off, there's no getting it back on without entering the number. This is a great feature.
Send an alert
You can also send a pop-up alert to your phone, with an alarm sound and a text message. This one is helpful when someone honest finds your lost phone, as you can send a message with a number to call, or other instructions. You can also annoy the daylights out of your wife and kids with this one. How useful something like this can be is open for debate, but it's nice to see it included.
The single most important part of any security suite for mobile devices is the remote wipe function. You can always get a new phone, but most of us don't want someone looking through our contacts or other personal info, and having a way to delete it all without the phone in your hands is great. BitDefender shines here as well. A simple click on their website and you're able to delete everything with no user interaction from the phone side. I tried it out, and it works really well. As a last resort, it's nice to know you can count on it.
Maybe we don't really need malware scanners, or we worry too much about app permissions. But with remote administration tools like the ones included in BitDefender, it's well worth checking out. It's a free app, and you get a 14 day trial of all the features so you can try them and decide if you want to spend the $10 per year to have them.