Windows is a great operating system. It is user friendly, affordable and supports legacy hardware and software fabulously. But it is prone to virus, malware and spyware attacks, often. Without an antivirus and firewall software, your safety isn’t assured at all. This one drawback has tarnished the Windows brand for decades and eventually gave way to the rise of Mac and to some extent desktop Linux.
Now I’m seeing a similar trend with the Android ecosystem. I knew antivirus software existed for Android, but only after researching for our recent roundup did I discover how many of them are available for download in the market. All security biggies from Norton to ESET have set shop. The funny thing is that we are yet to witness mass malware attacks of scale in our green robot community. But that’s a discussion for another time; for today, let us take McAfee Mobile Security for a spin.
McAfee Mobile Security works on Android versions 2.1 and up. The app costs $29.99 but you can try it out for free for seven days. A 30 day trial would have been nice, but since all the features of the app are unlocked, seven days should be plenty of time to make a decision.
You will have to verify your mobile number before you can start using the free trial version – I guess this is to ensure that you don’t uninstall and reinstall the free trial without paying up. But what they don’t mention is that the SMS is not free – though, fortunately, it wasn’t an international SMS and I was charged only for a local SMS. Although the countdown timer indicates the process might take about three minutes, within a few seconds my mobile number was verified.
Immediately after the verification screen, the app gets down to take care of business. First up, we have the alerts set up for if your mobile gets stolen. Once you add the number of your buddies and your own contact information, the app will alert all of you when someone who steals your mobile phone changes the SIM card.
You can either add the numbers manually or use the phonebook. Once you have added all the information, choose a six digit PIN code to ensure that only you can disable or edit this option. Do note that you wont be able to proceed without adding a buddy number. This is great, but I would have appreciated it more if there was an option to add my second number directly too. The registraton took a couple of minutes and requires email verification.
For the safety of my app, I was willing to jump through the hoops and the app then displayed the login information for the web app. The web app can be used to manage and control your device remotely when it goes missing.
Securing the Device
The warning notification and screen make sure that the major holes in the security situation are brought to your attention. The app primarily wanted to be christened the device admin, meaning it would have all rights to reset the passwords, wipe the phone, watch logins, force lock your phone and to see if your passwords are secure enough. Sounds like overkill to me and I chose to ignore it.
The idea behind this doomsday plan is to ensure that the McAfee Mobile Security app isn’t uninstalled by anyone else. So, make the decision based on how valuable the phone and the information stored in it are to you.
Initiating a Scan
The first thing I wanted to do, which I eventually did, was to start a scan. Consider that, although I wasn’t able to root my Wildfire, I have tried heaven and earth, installing every possible APK to get root access fully ignoring the legitimacy of the source. To my delight the scan was complete in a minute. Taking into account that the phone in question is owned by an app reviewer who installs a truck load of apps and never bothers to uninstall them, I would say that’s a huge accomplishment.
As expected, the scan didn’t find any threats at all. However, the developers should consider adding a splash screen or something to let the user know that the scan is complete and an option to proceed to the next screen.
The app helps you back up text messages, call logs, contacts and media files. Backups can be done manually or you can set up automatic backups which are more convenient and fool proof. Despite claiming to upload “media files”, McAfee Mobile Security only scans and finds images. MP3 and video files weren’t displayed at all.
For years, McAfee has been my trusted bodyguard of my desktop PC. They push updates regularly, the system resources were never clogged and no viruses were ever allowed enter PC. Naturally, I expected the same level of performance when it comes to my mobile phone – maybe even better given the relatively lower horsepower in my HTC Wildfire. And the app did a splendid job.
But the real question is do we need to install an antivirus software in our mobile phones? Personally, I find these Android security threat forecasts to be far fetched when they actually try to project Android as weak and vulnerable. But if you are in need of a reliable backup and anti-theft protection, then check out McAfee Mobile Security without fail.
For alternative apps to help combat phone theft, take a look at our article Phone Theft: Some Precautions You Can Take.