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The 5 Best Antivirus for Android Phones (2024 Update)

Updated: January 2024

By: Tibor Moes is the founder of SoftwareLab. He has tested 28 antivirus brands and studied Cybersecurity at Stanford. Read how we test antivirus.

Norton is the best antivirus for Android of 2024

Norton Antivirus

Ranked #1 of 28 antivirus for Android

  • Malware Protection 100% 100%
  • Security Features 100% 100%

Norton has the best anti-malware protection, excellent security features, and a great price. It’s the best antivirus of Android of 2024.

  • Malware protection: 100%. Norton stopped all 1,200 malware attacks in our test.
  • Security features: 100%. Anti-phishing, VPN, app security, dark web monitor, and more.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Norton did not slow down our test phone. 

Try it risk-free, thanks to its 60-day return policy.

Kaspersky is the second best antivirus for Android of 2024

Kaspersky Antivirus

Ranked #2 of 28 Antivirus for Android

  • Malware Protection 100% 100%
  • Security Features 100% 100%

Kaspersky offers excellent protection and security features for Android, but it’s quite expensive compared to Norton.

  • Malware protection: 100%. Kaspersky stopped all 1,200 malware attacks in our test.
  • Security features: 100%. Anti-phishing, VPN, password manager, and more.
  • Speed impact: 100%. Kaspersky did not slow down our test phone. 

Try it risk-free, thanks to its 30-day return policy.

The best antivirus for Android

For 2024, we tested 39 antivirus from 28 brands. We tested the anti-malware protection by infecting our Android phone with 1,200 malware attacks, including adware, spyware and malicious apps.

We also inspected the anti-phishing protection, virtual private networks (VPNs), password managers, and other security features in detail.

These are the best antivirus for Android of 2024:

  1. 🥇 Norton Antivirus – The #1 in 2024
  2. Kaspersky Antivirus
  3. McAfee Antivirus
  4. Bitdefender Antivirus
  5. Panda Antivirus

Scroll down for the reviews.

Norton Antivirus for Android

Norton Review

#1 of 28 antivirus for Android

Norton Antivirus for Android Test

Norton is ranked #1 of 28 antivirus for Android.

It includes all essential features:

  • Anti-malware
  • Web protection
  • Identity theft scanner
  • Unlimited VPN

And a range of bonus features:

  • App advisor
  • Wi-Fi scanner
  • Vulnerability scanner
  • Anti-tracker
  • SMS security checker

Most importantly, the VPN doesn’t have a data limit. By contrast, many other antivirus apps have a VPN data limit of a few hundred MB / day. That’s not enough.

When you frequently surf on public Wi-Fi, Norton’s unlimited VPN will protect your privacy on those unsecured networks.

We highly recommend Norton for anyone who surfs, shops, or banks on their phone.

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Detailed Review

Norton Antivirus for Android Review 2024

Security Features

At SoftwareLab, we thoroughly tested Norton’s Android app. It’s impressive how it packs numerous security features. The prominent “scan now” button is hard to miss – it effectively scans your phone for malware. Here’s a breakdown of its five key security features:

  • App Security: The App Advisor is a game-changer. It not only guides you on safe downloads from the Google Play Store but also keeps an eye on your existing apps for signs of malware, privacy issues, and annoying ads.
  • Internet Security: The Safe Web Browser and Norton Safe Search, powered by Ask.com, work together to shield you from harmful websites. This feature is a real asset for safe browsing.
  • Wi-Fi Security: We tested this on various networks – it accurately assesses Wi-Fi safety, checks password strength, and alerts you to potential risks.
  • Device Security: This feature conducts a comprehensive check of your phone, spotting potential security lapses like untrusted certificates and vulnerabilities.
  • SMS Security: Norton’s SMS scanning for phishing attempts is particularly useful for spotting deceptive texts.

Privacy Features

Norton’s Android app shines in privacy protection:

  • VPN: Norton stands out by offering an unlimited VPN service. It effectively masks your IP address and encrypts your connection, ensuring anonymity and safety, especially on public Wi-Fi.
  • Ad Tracker Blocking: This feature actively blocks tracking cookies, preventing advertisers and data companies from monitoring your online activities.

Identity Features

The Dark Web Monitoring is a standout feature, scanning the dark web for your personal data like addresses, licenses, and financial information. It’s noteworthy that this isn’t in the app itself but accessible through Norton’s website or the Norton LifeLock Identity app.

Norton Mobile Security vs. Norton 360

Understanding the difference is crucial:

  • Norton Mobile Security: Ideal for protecting a single Android device. It’s cost-effective and covers all essential security features.
  • Norton 360: Suited for multiple devices (up to 5). It adds a password manager and a more versatile VPN with server selection options.

Conclusion: Is Norton the Best Antivirus for Android?

In our experience, yes. While it may lack some anti-theft features, its inclusion of an unlimited VPN – a rarity among competitors – makes it a top choice for ensuring safety and privacy on Android devices.

Norton Mobile Security is a robust, user-friendly option for individual Android users, while Norton 360 is an excellent choice for those seeking wider coverage across multiple devices.

Kaspersky Antivirus for Android

Kaspersky Review

#2 of 28 antivirus for Android

Kaspersky Antivirus for Android Test

Kaspersky is ranked #2 of 28 antivirus for Android.

Kaspersky is one of the best Android antivirus apps that we’ve tested. And with the launch of Kaspersky Plus and Premium, Android users can get the unlimited VPN as well.

It covers all the core features, including anti-malware, web protection, anti-theft tools, an identity theft scanner, a VPN, and a range of bonus features. These include a call filter, safe messaging, app lock, settings scan, parental controls, and app permissions scan.

However, to access the unlimited VPN and password manager, you need to sign up for Kaspersky Plus. Which is an expensive product compared to Norton Mobile Security for Android.

Discount: Save up to 50% at Kaspersky

Detailed Review

Kaspersky Antivirus for Android Review 2024

Detailed Features

After extensively testing Kaspersky’s Android app, here’s what we found:

  • Scan Options: The flexibility of choosing between quick, custom, or full scans is impressive. Each scan type serves a different need and works efficiently.
  • Update Feature: The manual update option for the malware database is straightforward and effective, especially with the integrated quick scan feature.
  • Real-Time Protection: Turning adware detection on or off and receiving updates on the device’s security status adds a layer of proactive protection.
  • Call Filter: The call blocking feature is a welcome addition for privacy and avoiding unwanted calls.
  • Anti-Theft Tools: The array of anti-theft features, like remote locking, locating, alarm triggering, and device wiping, offers comprehensive protection against theft or loss.
  • App Lock: Setting a code for individual apps enhances privacy and security, ensuring only authorized access.
  • Safe Messaging: Scanning texts for phishing links is crucial in today’s environment where phishing attempts are rampant.
  • Internet Protection: The browser protection against phishing and other cybercrimes is highly effective.
  • Data Leak Checker: Scanning the Dark Web for personal data breaches is an advanced feature that adds significant value.
  • Weak Settings Scan: Identifying and alerting about vulnerable device settings helps in fortifying security.
  • My Apps: Reviewing app permissions like access to calendar, camera, and contacts offers a clear view of potential privacy risks.

Additional Security Apps

  • VPN: Kaspersky’s VPN service is robust, ensuring encrypted and anonymous internet usage, crucial for public Wi-Fi safety.
  • Safe Kids: The basic version of Kaspersky’s parental controls offers peace of mind for parents, with comprehensive monitoring and protection options.

The full versions of both VPN and Safe Kids, along with the excellent password manager, are available separately or as part of Kaspersky Security Cloud.

Conclusion: Is Kaspersky the Best Antivirus for Android?

Based on our analysis, Kaspersky stands out, particularly for its anti-theft features. Its comprehensive protection, combined with user-friendly interface and additional security tools, makes it a top choice for Android device security.

We highly recommend it for users who prioritize robust security features and those who seek additional tools like VPN and parental controls.

McAfee Antivirus for Android

McAfee Review

#3 of 28 antivirus for Android

McAfee Antivirus for Android Test

McAfee is ranked #3 of 28 antivirus for Android.

McAfee has a beautiful design and covers most of the features we want in a security app. It includes anti-malware, AI powered anti-phishing, an identity theft scanner, and an unlimited VPN. But it lacks anti-theft tools, and its bonus features only include a Wi-Fi security checker.

Discount: Save 50% at McAfee

Detailed Review

McAfee Antivirus for Android Review 2024

We’ve thoroughly tested McAfee Mobile Security for Android, and here’s our take on its features and overall performance.

Design and Layout McAfee Mobile Security boasts an aesthetically pleasing design, divided into three easily navigable tabs at the screen’s bottom. The design is intuitive and user-friendly, which enhances the overall user experience.

Educational and Actionable Insights The leftmost tab is particularly informative. McAfee does well in educating users about potential cyber risks, like the dangers of unsecured Wi-Fi. It also encourages proactive steps for protection, such as enabling safe browsing.

Security Features In the second tab, McAfee showcases its key security components:

  • Antivirus Scan: This feature scans apps, files, photos, and videos for malware and other threats. It’s a comprehensive tool for keeping your device safe.
  • Identity Protection: Here, you can input personal data like email addresses and credit card details. McAfee scans the Dark Web for any breaches involving your information, which is a valuable service for identity protection.
  • Secure VPN: McAfee offers an unlimited VPN, similar to Norton and Kaspersky. This is a significant advantage over Bitdefender’s 200 MB/day limit. The VPN ensures anonymous and private browsing across the web.
  • Wi-Fi Security Scanner: This tool tests the strength and encryption of your Wi-Fi network, helping to ensure your connections are secure.
  • Safe Browsing: Adding anti-phishing protection and a web advisor to your browser is crucial for navigating the internet safely.

Conclusion: Is McAfee the Best Antivirus for Android?

While it stands out for its excellent design, we believe Norton edges it out with a more comprehensive array of security features. The design of McAfee’s app is definitely a strong point, but when it comes to all-around protection, we prefer Norton for Android users.

Bitdefender Antivirus for Android

Bitdefender Review

#4 of 28 antivirus for Android

BitDefender Antivirus for Android Test

Bitdefender is ranked #4 of 28 antivirus for Android.

Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android covers all the core features: Anti-malware, web protection, anti-theft tools, an identity theft scanner, and a VPN.

However, it can’t match the Android apps of Norton or Kaspersky.

Norton and Kaspersky have a more comprehensive range of security features, a better design, and a no data limit on their VPN.

Unless you’re a big fan of the Bitdefender brand, we believe Norton and Kaspersky are better Android antivirus apps.

Discount: Save 50% at Bitdefender

Detailed Review

Bitdefender Antivirus for Android Review 2024

We took a close look at Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android. While its design isn’t as appealing as some of its American counterparts like Norton and McAfee, it’s packed with features that are worth considering.


Bitdefender’s Dashboard is straightforward. It highlights essential security elements like Scam Alert, App Lock, Web Protection, and Anti-Theft features. Once you’ve got these up and running, the Dashboard basically gives you a green signal, indicating your device is protected.

Malware Scanner

The Malware Scanner is a critical tool. It searches your phone for harmful apps, covering a broad spectrum of threats including ransomware, adware, spyware, and crypto miners. This thorough scanning process helps ensure your device stays clean and secure.

Web Protection

We found the Web Protection feature quite impressive. It works with a variety of browsers – Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and others – to safeguard your online activities. This kind of extensive compatibility is a big plus, especially when browsing on different platforms.

Scam Alert

The Scam Alert function actively checks for malicious text messages that could lead you to scams or phishing sites. It’s a necessary shield in a world where such threats are increasingly common.

More Features

Under the ‘More’ section, Bitdefender offers:

  • VPN: While the built-in VPN is handy, its 200 MB/day limit is a bit restrictive. We suggest using Bitdefender’s separate VPN app for better performance. However, it’s important to note that competitors like Norton and Kaspersky offer unlimited VPN services.
  • Anti-Theft: The anti-theft feature is robust, allowing you to locate, lock, and wipe your phone remotely. Plus, the added security of taking a photo after three failed login attempts is a thoughtful touch.
  • Account Privacy: This feature is akin to Norton’s Dark Web Monitor, checking if your personal data is at risk online.
  • App Lock: Securing sensitive apps with a pin or biometric authentication adds an extra layer of security.

Conclusion: Is Bitdefender the Best Antivirus for Android?

Is Bitdefender the best antivirus app for Android? Not quite. Despite its comprehensive feature set, the lackluster design and limited VPN data cap are drawbacks.

We feel Norton, with its unlimited VPN, is a better fit for Android users, especially those frequently using public Wi-Fi. Bitdefender does cover all the bases for an Android security app, but it falls short in offering a complete, user-friendly package.

Panda Antivirus for Android

Panda Review

#5 of 28 antivirus for Android

Panda Antivirus for Android Test

Panda is ranked #5 of 28 antivirus for Android.

Panda free antivirus for Android includes anti-malware, a VPN with a 150 MB / day data limit, anti-theft, a call blocker, an app locker, and a permissions scan. Especially the last one, the permissions scan, is a rare feature we would like to see more often in other antivirus apps.

However, if you’re willing to spend a few dollars, Norton offers better protection for users who frequently use public Wi-Fi networks, thanks to its unlimited VPN.

Discount: Save 50% at Panda

Detailed Review

Panda Antivirus for Android Review 2024

We’ve evaluated both the free and paid versions of Panda Dome Antivirus for Android. Here’s our detailed review of its features and overall value.

Free Version Features Panda’s free antivirus app offers several key features:

  • Antivirus: It allows manual or automatic scanning of apps, files, and SD cards for malware. The flexibility of scheduling regular scans adds to its utility.
  • VPN: The VPN feature, while useful for online anonymity, is limited to 150 MB/day, the lowest in our tests. This might be restrictive for heavy internet users.
  • Privacy Auditor: This tool scans app permissions, revealing which apps can track your location, access your media files, etc. The ability to delete intrusive apps directly from Panda’s app is a convenient feature.
  • Anti-Theft: The anti-theft feature includes options to locate, lock, and remotely erase data on your phone, which is vital for lost or stolen devices.

Paid Version Additions The paid version of Panda Dome Antivirus builds upon the free version with:

  • Advanced Anti-Theft: This includes triggering an alarm or taking a photo with the front camera, which can be critical in case of theft.
  • Call Blocker: It allows you to block specific, unknown, and hidden numbers, providing an added layer of privacy.
  • App Lock: Securing sensitive apps with a 4-digit pin code is a simple yet effective security measure.

Conclusion: Is Panda the Best Antivirus for Android?

It depends on what you’re looking for. If a free app is your priority, Panda offers a compelling package, especially considering its antivirus, VPN, basic anti-theft, and permission scan features. In this regard, we consider Panda as the best free antivirus option in our test.

However, for those seeking the best protection without budget constraints, paid options like Norton and Kaspersky outperform Panda. They offer more comprehensive security features, such as enhanced anti-phishing web protection and a higher VPN data limit.

So, while Panda is excellent for a free service, for more advanced needs, we recommend exploring paid alternatives.

Specification comparison

Below, we compare the features of the best antivirus for Android. The core features we look for are anti-malware, anti-phishing (web protection), anti-theft, identity theft scanner (dark web monitor), and an unlimited VPN.

The anti-malware scores are based on our own in-house tests and the protection test scores for Android by AV-Test, the independent test lab from Germany. The speed impact scores are based on the performance test scores for Android by AV-Test.

Sadly, Panda does not partake in the trial runs of AV-Test. Therefore, we have no objective data to judge its anti-malware protection and speed impact.

#1 of 20
#2 of 20
#3 of 20
#4 of 20
#5 of 20
Speed impact




Identity theft Scanner

VPN Data Limit
300 MB / day
200 MB / day
Unlimited (if auto-renewal is active)
150 MB / day
Money back guarantee
60 days
60 days
30 days
30 days
30 days

User reviews

We’ve compared the user reviews of all antivirus brands. We’ve used the scores and review count of TrustPilot, a leading user review platform. However, take these results with a grain of salt, as some brands actively attempt to increase their ratings.

Personally, we are wary of exceptionally high scores. Especially those by brands such as TotalAV, known for aggressive marketing and sales tactics.

We consider scores between 4.0 and 4.5 good and realistic. Higher scores are dubious, and lower scores indicate that the brand might have a poor product or customer service. McAfee’s scores, for instance, are worrying.

Review score
Review count

Buying Guide

Common questions about antivirus software for Android

What is antivirus for Android and why do I need it?

Antivirus for Android refers to software designed to detect, prevent, and remove malware and other security threats on Android devices. Android, being the most popular mobile operating system globally, is a frequent target for cybercriminals. Antivirus software provides essential protection against a variety of threats such as viruses, trojans, spyware, adware, and ransomware.

The need for antivirus on Android stems from several factors:

  • App Security: While Google Play Store has security measures, malicious apps occasionally slip through. Antivirus software can detect and block such apps.
  • Web Protection: It helps in safe browsing by warning against phishing and fraudulent websites.
  • Device Performance: Some antivirus programs include features to optimize device performance.
  • Data Privacy: Antivirus tools often come with features to protect your personal information from unauthorized access or theft.

For more, read our blog post on what antivirus software is.

How does antivirus software protect my Android phone?

Antivirus software protects your Android phone through several key functions:

  • Malware Scanning: Regularly scans apps and files for malicious content.
  • Real-Time Protection: Continuously monitors app installations and file downloads.
  • Web Security: Alerts about suspicious or harmful websites.
  • Anti-Phishing: Detects and blocks phishing attempts.
  • App Lock and Privacy Features: Provides additional layers of security for sensitive apps and data.
  • Regular Updates: Keeps the antivirus definitions updated to recognize the latest threats.

For more, read our blog post on what antivirus software is.

Will antivirus software slow down my Android phone?

Modern antivirus software is designed to be efficient and minimally invasive. While running background processes, reputable antivirus solutions should not significantly slow down your Android phone. Performance impact can vary based on:

  • The specifications of your phone.
  • The complexity of the antivirus software.
  • The number of simultaneous operations performed by the software.

Choosing a lightweight antivirus program and regularly updating your device can minimize performance impacts.

Can antivirus remove existing viruses from my phone?

Yes, antivirus software can remove existing viruses from your phone. Upon detection of a virus or malware, the software typically offers options to delete, quarantine, or repair the affected files. The effectiveness of removal depends on:

  • The severity and type of malware.
  • The capabilities of the antivirus software.
  • Whether the malware has made deep system modifications.

Regular scanning and updating antivirus definitions are crucial for effective removal.

Can antivirus software protect my tablet as well?

Absolutely, antivirus software can protect your tablet just as effectively as it does your phone. Tablets run the same operating system as phones (e.g., Android) and face similar security risks. Most antivirus solutions are designed to be compatible with both phones and tablets, offering the same level of protection and features.

What should I do if my antivirus detects malware?

If your antivirus detects malware, you should:

  1. Isolate the Threat: Follow the antivirus prompts to quarantine or remove the infected file.
  2. Perform a Full Scan: Conduct a thorough scan of your device to ensure no other malware exists.
  3. Update Your Software: Ensure your antivirus and operating system are up-to-date.
  4. Change Passwords: If sensitive information might be compromised, change your passwords.
  5. Monitor Your Device: Observe for any unusual behavior post-removal.
  6. Backup Your Data: Regularly back up your data to prevent future data loss.

Prompt action and adherence to these steps can significantly mitigate the risks posed by malware.

What are common types of cyber threats for Android?

The most common types of cyber threats for Android devices include:

  • Malware: Malicious software designed to damage or disrupt the device. This includes viruses, worms, and trojans.
  • Adware: Unwanted software designed to throw advertisements up on your screen, often in a way that is intrusive and annoying.
  • Spyware: Software that secretly records what you do on your device, often for data theft.
  • Ransomware: Malware that encrypts your data and demands payment for its release.
  • Phishing Attacks: Attempts to trick you into giving out personal information such as passwords.
  • Unsecured Wi-Fi Networks: Risks associated with using public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
  • Rootkits: Software tools that enable unauthorized access to a device while hiding its presence.
  • App-based Threats: Malicious apps that appear legitimate but contain harmful code.


What cyber threats can and can’t antivirus protect me from?

Antivirus software for Android can protect you from:

  • Malware: Including viruses, trojans, and worms.
  • Spyware: By detecting and removing tracking software.
  • Adware: By identifying and eliminating intrusive ad software.
  • Phishing Attacks: Through alerts and web protection features.
  • Ransomware: By preventing its installation or limiting its impact.

However, antivirus software might not protect against:

  • Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs): Highly sophisticated, targeted attacks.
  • Zero-Day Attacks: New threats that emerge before the antivirus software is updated to detect them.
  • Social Engineering Attacks: Like phishing, if the user bypasses antivirus warnings.
  • Physical Theft or Loss of Device: Unless the antivirus includes anti-theft features.


How do I choose the best antivirus software for Android?

To choose the best antivirus software for Android, consider the following:

  • Security Features: Look for comprehensive protection including real-time scanning, web protection, and anti-phishing.
  • Performance Impact: Choose software that offers effective protection without significantly slowing down your device.
  • User Interface: Ensure the software is user-friendly and easy to navigate.
  • Reputation and Reviews: Research user reviews and expert opinions.
  • Cost vs. Features: Balance the cost against the provided features and your security needs.
  • Updates and Support: Regular updates are essential for dealing with new threats.


Is free antivirus software reliable enough for basic protection?

Free antivirus software can be reliable enough for basic protection. Many reputable vendors offer free versions of their antivirus products, providing core security features such as malware scanning and real-time protection.

However, free versions may lack advanced features like identity theft protection, secure VPN, and customer support. For comprehensive protection, especially in a business context or for users with high-security needs, a paid version might be more appropriate.

Does antivirus for Android come with customer support?

Yes, most paid antivirus software for Android comes with customer support. The level of support can vary between providers and may include:

  • Online Support: Through emails, ticket systems, or live chat.
  • Phone Support: Direct phone lines for quicker assistance.
  • Knowledge Base: Online resources like FAQs, tutorials, and forums.
  • In-app Support: Assistance directly from within the antivirus application.

Free versions of antivirus software may offer limited customer support compared to their paid counterparts. It’s advisable to consider the type of customer support available when choosing an antivirus solution.

Advanced questions about antivirus software for Android

How do we test antivirus software for Android?

At SoftwareLab, we are committed to delivering comprehensive and unbiased reviews of antivirus software. Our methodology encompasses a range of critical aspects to ensure that our assessments are thorough and relevant to our users’ needs.

1. Anti-malware protection (30%)

  • As the core function of antivirus software, we prioritize anti-malware protection. We conduct in-house testing with a diverse set of 1200 malware samples, including the latest threats, and simulate real-time attack scenarios to gauge the software’s effectiveness.
  • To reinforce the reliability of our findings, we compare our results with those from AV-Test, a respected independent security institute.

2. Security and privacy features (30%)

  • Web protection: We evaluate the software’s ability to protect against phishing sites and other web-based threats.
  • Firewall: Our tests include intrusion simulations to assess the effectiveness of the software’s firewall.
  • Password manager: We examine the ability of the integrated password manager to generate, store, and auto-fill passwords securely.
  • VPN: We test for VPN speed, encryption quality, server locations, and the ability to conceal IP addresses.
  • Parental controls: We assess the efficacy of filters and restrictions for safe browsing for children.
  • Identity theft protection: Monitoring capabilities and alert responsiveness are tested.
  • Secure cloud storage: We evaluate the software’s cloud storage solutions based on capacity, ease of use, and security.
  • Anti-ransomware: Effectiveness against ransomware attacks is a critical part of our testing.
  • Dark web monitoring: We check how well the software scans for personal information on the dark web.

3. Speed impact (10%)

  • We assess how the antivirus software affects system performance during common tasks, such as file copying, program downloads, and installations. Our assessment criteria are aligned with the AV-Test performance tests.

4. False positives (10%)

  • It’s crucial that antivirus software distinguishes between safe and harmful applications. We evaluate the frequency of benign software being incorrectly flagged as malware, referring to AV-Test’s usability tests for additional insights.

5. Price (10%)

  • We consider the overall value for money, analyzing the features offered against the long-term costs of the software.

6. Ownership and reputation (10%)

  • The trustworthiness of the software’s provider is integral. We examine the company’s history, its data handling practices, commitment to user privacy, and its response to any incidents of unethical conduct or data breaches.

Our rigorous testing approach ensures that we provide our users with reliable and up-to-date information, helping them make informed decisions about their cybersecurity solutions.

Read more on how we test antivirus software.

How does anti-malware work?

Anti-malware for Android works by employing various techniques to detect, prevent, and remove malicious software from Android devices. Key components include:

  • Signature-Based Detection: Identifies malware by comparing it to a database of known threat signatures.
  • Heuristic Analysis: Detects unknown viruses or new variants of known viruses by examining code behavior and properties.
  • Behavior-Based Detection: Monitors the behavior of applications and flags unusual or malicious activities.
  • Cloud-Based Analysis: Uses cloud services to process and analyze data, providing real-time updates and threat intelligence.
  • Sandboxing: Runs suspicious applications in an isolated environment to observe their behavior without risking the device.
  • Regular Updates: Keeps the malware detection capabilities up-to-date with the latest threats.
  • User Alerts and Quarantine: Notifies users of detected threats and isolates malicious files for further action.


What is signature-based detection?

Signature-based detection is a traditional method used in antivirus software where malware is identified based on a specific set of characteristics or ‘signatures’. These signatures are like digital fingerprints unique to each piece of malware.

The antivirus maintains a database of known malware signatures and scans files and applications against this database. When a match is found, the software flags it as malware. This method is highly effective against known threats but less effective against new, unknown malware.

What is heuristic analysis?

Heuristic analysis is a method used by antivirus software to detect new, previously unknown viruses or new variants of existing viruses. It does this by looking for certain suspicious characteristics or behaviors in the code, rather than relying on a database of known malware signatures.

Heuristic analysis can detect malware based on unusual instructions or actions within the code, allowing it to identify threats that haven’t yet been formally identified and cataloged.

What is behavior-based detection?

Behavior-based detection focuses on the behavior of software or applications rather than their code. This method monitors how programs operate on your device, looking for activities that are typically associated with malware, such as unauthorized data transmission, unexpected system changes, or attempts to access sensitive parts of the operating system.

Unlike signature-based detection, behavior-based detection can identify malware based on how it acts, making it effective against new and emerging threats.

What is machine learning within cybersecurity?

Machine learning within cybersecurity is the application of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that improve automatically through experience in detecting and responding to cyber threats. Machine learning algorithms analyze vast amounts of data to identify patterns and anomalies that might indicate a security threat.

They can adapt to new and evolving threats more quickly than traditional methods. This adaptability makes machine learning an essential component in modern cybersecurity defenses, particularly for identifying sophisticated, previously unseen attacks.

What is cloud-based antivirus?

Cloud-based antivirus is a security solution where most of the processing and analysis of potential threats is done on remote servers rather than on the user’s device. This approach allows for more powerful computing resources to be used for scanning and analyzing data, offering several benefits:

  • Real-Time Updates and Threat Intelligence: Immediate updates on new threats without the need to download extensive updates.
  • Reduced Performance Impact: Minimal use of the device’s own processing power.
  • Enhanced Scalability and Flexibility: Easily adapts to varying workload demands.


What is sandboxing within cybersecurity?

Sandboxing in cybersecurity is a security technique where a separate, isolated virtual environment is created to run and analyze suspicious programs. If the program attempts to perform malicious actions, it’s confined to the sandbox, preventing it from affecting the actual system or network. This approach allows security professionals to safely examine the behavior of unknown software without risking system integrity.

What are false positives within cybersecurity?

False positives in cybersecurity occur when a security system incorrectly identifies a benign activity or file as malicious. This can happen with antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, or other security mechanisms.

While false positives don’t pose a direct security threat, they can be problematic by causing unnecessary alarm, diverting resources from real threats, or leading to the unintended deletion or quarantine of harmless files or programs. Balancing sensitivity to threats with minimizing false positives is a key challenge in cybersecurity.

How does antivirus handle zero-day threats?

Antivirus software handles zero-day threats (newly discovered vulnerabilities that haven’t been patched yet) using several advanced techniques:

  • Heuristic Analysis: Identifies suspicious behavior or patterns that might indicate a new type of malware.
  • Behavior-Based Detection: Monitors for abnormal behavior in software or systems that could signify an exploit.
  • Machine Learning: Uses AI algorithms to detect anomalies and patterns indicative of new threats.
  • Cloud-Based Intelligence: Relies on real-time updates from global threat databases to quickly adapt to emerging threats.
  • Sandboxing: Runs unknown software in a controlled environment to observe its behavior without risk to the actual system.


How does a firewall work?

A firewall is a network security system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. It acts as a barrier between a trusted internal network and untrusted external networks, like the internet. Firewalls can be hardware-based, software-based, or both. They work by:

  • Filtering Traffic: Based on defined rules, it allows or blocks traffic.
  • Packet Inspection: Examines data packets entering or leaving the network.
  • Stateful Inspection: Monitors the state of active connections to determine which network packets to allow through.
  • Proxy Service: Intercepts all messages entering and leaving the network.


How does a password manager work?

A password manager is a tool that helps users store and manage their passwords. It typically works by:

  • Storing Passwords: Securely saves passwords in an encrypted database.
  • Auto-Fill Functionality: Automatically fills in passwords on websites and apps.
  • Generating Strong Passwords: Creates complex, unique passwords for each account.
  • One Master Password: Uses one strong password or biometric authentication to access all stored passwords.
  • Cross-Platform Syncing: Allows access to passwords across multiple devices.


How does a VPN work?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) works by creating a secure, encrypted connection over a less secure network, typically the internet. It allows users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to a private network. Key functions include:

  • Data Encryption: Encrypts data before it leaves the device.
  • IP Address Masking: Hides the user’s IP address.
  • Secure Tunneling: Routes data through secure servers.
  • Access to Restricted Content: Bypasses geo-restrictions and censorship.


How does anti-phishing work?

Anti-phishing works by detecting and preventing fraudulent attempts to obtain sensitive information. It involves:

  • Email Filtering: Scans emails for signs of phishing (suspicious links, attachments, or sender addresses).
  • Website Authentication: Alerts users when they visit suspected phishing sites.
  • Real-Time Alerts: Warns users about potential phishing attempts in real-time.
  • User Education: Provides information on recognizing and avoiding phishing attempts.


How does ransomware protection work?

Ransomware protection in antivirus software helps to prevent, detect, and recover from ransomware attacks. It works by:

  • Real-Time Monitoring: Watching for behavior typical of ransomware.
  • Access Control: Preventing unauthorized changes to files.
  • Backup Solutions: Regularly backing up data to restore in case of an attack.
  • Isolation of Threats: Quarantining suspicious files.


How does identity theft protection work?

Identity theft protection involves a range of tools and services designed to detect, prevent, and assist in the recovery from identity theft. This typically includes:

  • Monitoring Services: Watches for unauthorized use of personal information.
  • Alerts: Notifies users of potential breaches of their personal information.
  • Credit Monitoring: Tracks credit reports for unusual activity.
  • Recovery Assistance: Provides expert help in recovering from identity theft.


How do parental controls work?

Parental controls are tools or software that allow parents to set restrictions on their child’s internet usage and access to content. They work by:

  • Content Filtering: Blocking access to inappropriate or harmful websites.
  • Usage Controls: Limiting time spent on devices or specific apps.
  • Monitoring Tools: Tracking online activity and usage history.
  • Age-Appropriate Restrictions: Customizing restrictions based on the child’s age.


Advanced questions about Android

Does Android need 3rd party antivirus software?

Whether Android needs 3rd party antivirus software depends on user behavior, device usage, and the level of risk one is willing to accept. Android has built-in security features, but additional protection can be beneficial, especially for users who:

  • Download apps from outside the Google Play Store: Third-party app stores or websites may host apps with malicious software.
  • Access unknown or risky websites: Increased exposure to online threats like phishing or malware.
  • Use their device for sensitive transactions: Like online banking or shopping, where additional security could safeguard personal information.

However, for users who stick to the Google Play Store for apps and practice safe browsing habits, the built-in security features of Android may be sufficient.

What security features does Android have?

Android comes with several built-in security features, including:

  • Google Play Protect: Scans apps for malicious behavior before and after they’re installed.
  • Sandboxing: Isolates app data from each other, minimizing the risk of data leaks or malware spread.
  • Secure Boot: Ensures that the device boots with the correct, untampered operating system.
  • Encryption: Offers full-disk encryption to protect user data.
  • Biometric Authentication: Provides options like fingerprint and facial recognition for secure access.
  • Regular Security Updates: Delivers updates to address vulnerabilities and enhance security.


Are there known vulnerabilities in Android?

Like any operating system, Android has known vulnerabilities, which are typically identified and addressed through regular updates. Common vulnerabilities may include:

  • App-Based Vulnerabilities: Flaws in apps that could be exploited for unauthorized data access or control.
  • System-Level Exploits: Weaknesses in the Android OS itself that could allow bypassing of security measures.
  • Outdated Software: Devices not updated with the latest security patches are more vulnerable.

The open-source nature of Android contributes to both its strength and susceptibility; while it allows for rapid development and innovation, it also means vulnerabilities can be discovered and exploited more easily.

What are the best security practices for Android?

Best security practices for Android users include:

  • Regular Updates: Keep your device and apps updated with the latest security patches.
  • App Downloads: Only download apps from trusted sources like the Google Play Store.
  • Manage App Permissions: Regularly review and limit app permissions.
  • Use Secure Networks: Avoid using unsecured public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions.
  • Enable Security Features: Use built-in features like screen locks, encryption, and biometric authentication.
  • Be Wary of Links and Attachments: Avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading attachments from unknown sources.
  • Consider Antivirus Software: For added security, especially if using the device for sensitive activities.


How does Android handle security updates and patches?

Android handles security updates and patches through a monthly security update program. The process includes:

  • Identification of Vulnerabilities: Security flaws are identified by researchers, users, and developers.
  • Development of Updates: Once a vulnerability is identified, Google and device manufacturers develop patches to fix it.
  • Distribution: Security patches are then distributed in several ways:
    • Directly from Google: For devices running stock Android like Google Pixel.
    • Through Device Manufacturers: For OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) who adapt these updates to their devices.
  • User Installation: Users are prompted to install these updates. For maximum security, it’s recommended to install these updates promptly.

This update process, while effective, depends on the device manufacturers and carriers, which can sometimes lead to delays in the availability of updates for certain devices.

Other questions

What antivirus software have we tested?

We have tested 39 antivirus software from 28 brands. These range from free antivirus programs, to entry-level paid antivirus programs, mid-range paid antivirus software, and full-featured internet security suites.

These are the programs we recommend:

We believe that Norton Antivirus Plus is the best entry-level antivirus software and Norton 360 Deluxe the best antivirus all around.

Does this page exist in other languages?

Yes, at SoftwareLab, we write in 11 languages:

Click the links to be taken to the language of your choice.

What sources and tools have we used?

Below are the sources and tools we’ve used to test the antivirus software:

Click the links to be taken to the source or tool of your choice.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor has tested 39 antivirus programs and 30 VPN services, and holds a Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate from Stanford University.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.