Antivirus for Smartphones: Should you be worried?

By on July 10, 2012
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As platforms like iOS & Android become popular by the day, employees are no longer considering the standard company issued phones just to be a ‘communication’ device.


Antivirus programs play a significant role on the desktop. The security issues that pop up are sometimes too scary to imagine, and having a trusted antivirus program surely makes it a lot easier – and safer of course. And if that wasn’t enough, we now have to worry about having antimalware apps for our smartphones too… The fear of compromising the data in your smartphone is a dodgy affair.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise that when antimalware apps started appearing for Android, we snapped them up. Well, you can’t blame us really. That’s what we have been fed ever since the antivirus companies came in to existence. Trojans… Spywares… Botnets…

Furthermore, corporate security is a vital issue. Most of the administrators and IT pros do not give the computer without completely securing it. In order to secure computers, antivirus companies provide extensive suites, with a centralized system. But the question that arises now is this: What about smartphones? The trend is changing. As platforms like iOS & Android become popular by the day, employees are no longer considering the standard company issued phones just to be a ‘communication’ device. From downloading documents, to reading email attachments, we even use VPNs inside the company firewall. These issues naturally raise concerns as to how the integrity of the data is being preserved.

Now one has to understand how the smartphone functions before answering the question, and how it is fundamentally different from the typical computer. A program has the ability to access all the system resources on a normal system, gaining entry to hard drive contents, the unprotected RAM and so on. Therefore, if a malicious software gains access to your computer, it has ability to scan the hard drive, read your keystrokes, and then send it back via your network.

On the other hand, current smartphones do not work that way. Each of the apps running is given their own work environment, sort of like each app running in its own virtual machine. This in itself is a very secure environment for the apps to run, where no malicious software can do much harm. Moreover, apps for platform like Android must be downloaded from their official store, like Play. Google revealed a security feature, called ‘Bouncer’, which is designed to automatically scan the entire Android market for malware.

Because the foul play is greatly reduced, you have to now think whether antivirus apps can do much. You know where this is going: any antivirus software that you install will not be able to access any other app, or the data that is used by it. Yes, if you Jailbreak your iPhone, or Root your Android, the scenario maybe different. But who does that? Some of us may think that we are intentionally opening up our devices so that they are more vulnerable to exploits due to ‘Rooting’ or ‘Jailbreaking.’

So now, back to the question: Should you be worried? There haven’t been any major malware outbreaks on modern smartphones. The threat, however, is different. Rogue apps have been known to infiltrate the Android Market, and siphon data off of users’ phones. But so far, there haven’t been any malware that would manage to access the data from other apps. But who is to say that they will not evolve? We always have to take security issues with a pinch of salt…

There are many other functions that security apps provide besides ‘scanning for malware.’ There’s remote access: the ability to track and remotely erase devices. Next, the most basic of them all: having a passcode that erases the device if there are unsuccessful attempts to gain access. These are some of the features that are available in the modern smartphones nowadays, and are also being implemented by IT administrators.

I believe the security apps are barely affective. It uses system resources, & battery life. I wouldn’t be worried about the issue so much as of now. But yes, due diligence is important. Download apps from the official stores, and do not use confidential data if there is no dire need to. Backup the phone data on a daily basis so that a crisis like losing it can be averted. Use password protection on SD cards if you have one. And more importantly, enjoy your smartphone.


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