Smokey's Security Weblog

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Review avast! Mobile Security for Android phones

TEST ENVIRONMENT

Testing period: 2011-12-10 / 2011-12-24
Phone: Samsung Galaxy S Plus (SGS+) non-rooted and rooted
OS: Android Gingerbread 2.3.5

ABOUT THE APP

Avast! Mobile Security for Android phones is an full featured Anti-virus and Anti-Theft security application for Android phones. It can protect your phone against malicious apps, hackers, infected-URLs and thieves.

Operating Systems Supported

Android 2.1.x
Android 2.2.x
Android 2.3.x

Hardware Requirements

Any phone capable of running a supported system.

Security Features

Antivirus: Performs on-demand scans of all installed apps and memory card content, as well as on-access scans of apps upon first execution. Options for scheduling scans, virus definition updates, uninstalling apps, deleting files, or reporting a false-positive to our virus lab.

Privacy Report: Scans and displays (grid) access rights and intents of installed apps, identifying potential privacy risks, so you know how much info you are really providing to each app.

SMS/Call Filtering: Filter calls and/or messages from contact list using set parameters based on day(s) of the week, start time, and end time. Blocked calls redirect to voicemail, while blocked messages are stored via filter log. Also possible to block outgoing calls.

App Manager: Similar to Windows Task Manager, it shows a list of running apps and their size (MB), CPU load, used memory, and number of threads and services – with an option to stop or uninstall.

Web Shield: Part of the avast! WebRep cloud, the avast! Web Shield for Android scans each URL that loads and warns you if the browser loads a malware-infected URL.

Firewall: Add a firewall to stop hackers. Disable an app’s internet access when on WiFi and 3G and roaming mobile networks. (Works only on rooted phones.)

avast! Anti-Theft Module Features

App Disguiser: After downloading avast! Anti-Theft, user can choose a custom name that disguises the app (e.g. call it “Pinocchio game”) so that it is even harder for thieves to find and remove.

Stealth Mode: Once anti-theft is enabled, the app icon is hidden in the app tray, leaving no audio or other trace on the target phone – the app is ‘invisible’, making it difficult for thieves to detect or remove.

Self-Protection: Extremely difficult for thieves to remove (especially on rooted phones), Anti-Theft protects itself from uninstall by disguising its components with various self-preservation techniques. On rooted phones it is able to survive hard-resets and can even disable the phone’s USB port.

Battery Save: Anti-Theft only launches itself and runs when it needs to perform tasks. This preserves battery life and makes it very difficult for thieves to shut it down.

SIM-Card-Change Notification: If stolen and a different (unauthorized) SIM card inserted, the phone can lock, activate siren, and send you notification (to remote device) of the phone’s new number and geo-location.

Trusted SIM Cards List: Establish a ‘white list’ of approved SIM cards that can be used in the phone without triggering a theft alert. You can also easily clear the trusted SIM cards list, to leave the one present in the phone as the only trusted one.

Remote Settings Change: A setup wizard guides the user through the installation process on rooted phones by either writing directly or by generating an update file. No command-line knowledge is necessary to install Anti-Theft rooted. Also supports upgrading the app.

Anti-Theft SMS Remote Features

Remote Siren: Option to sound a loud siren, which returns always to maximum volume if thieves try to silence. This siren sound can also be customized (e.g. record own siren sound or select siren sound from file).

Remote Lock: To protect your data, phone can be locked remotely and then cannot be accessed again without entering the password specified by the user.

Lock Phone Settings Access: Enables remote locking of the phone’s App Manager and/or phone settings.

Remote Display: Remotely send a customized message to locked or non-locked phone display (e.g. with a reward for its return).

Remote Locate: Remotely locate phone via GPS, WiFi, or mobile network – for maximum accuracy. Can locate either once or continuously (GPS can be auto-enabled on all rooted phones or non-rooted phones from Android 1.6 to 2.2).

Remote Memory Wipe: Remotely trigger a full, permanent wipe of all phone data (e.g. contacts, call log, SMS/MMS, browser history, apps, email accounts), including reliable, physical wipe of all memory cards from Android 2.2 on (limited functionality on older versions).

Remote Calling: Remotely have the phone call you elsewhere with screen blackened, so that thieves cannot see it. This way you can listen to the phone’s surroundings.

Remote Forwarding: Remotely activate/deactivate option to forward or copy call data and/or SMS messages to another device. Call data goes to remote device, but not the call itself. SMS messages, however, are forwarded in their entirety (“CC” copies also to original device).

Remote “Lost” Notification: Remotely send a “Lost” command to trigger same actions as SIM card change (e.g. phone lock, siren, or USB lock). “Found” command deactivates “Lost” command.

Remote SMS Sending: Remotely trigger phone to send an SMS to another phone. That way, if you forget the phone somewhere, you can reply nonetheless to incoming calls or SMS messages.

Remote History: Query the call log, contacts, and SMS messages remotely (with each forwarded as a separate SMS message, but able to be filtered).

Remote Restart: Reboot the phone by SMS command, which will lock the phone by asking for the SIM’s PIN code. (Works only on rooted phones.)

Low Battery Notification: Phone is able to send low battery notification to a secondary device.

Remote Settings Change: All of the Anti-Theft settings can be changed remotely.

THE REVIEW

To receive full protection by the app your phone should be rooted: the build-in firewall only works with rooted phones, and the Anti-Theft module will only be hard reset proof also on a rooted phone. We all know the discussions why to root and why not, personally I will not advise anybody to do such. It will weaken your phone’s build-in security mechanism, violates the warranty and there is also the risk of bricking the device.

Personally I’m also opinion that serious (security orientated) companies like avast! shouldn’t suggest/advise their customers to root their device, regrettably avast! factually does. OTOH the application will only be able to show it’s full potential on a rooted phone, keep in mind that a mobile OS has it’s limitations hence a security program can  only protect the customer in the best imaginable way when the phone is rooted. Summarizing there’s a contradiction that can’t be solved in a satisfying way.

Before installing the app please consider the cons and pros of rooting, these are mentioned before. Consider also that the app (of course) also can be installed on non-rooted devices but such will limit the possibilities of the app. If your phone is already rooted there is nothing to consider, install the app and enjoy it’s great possibilities and very good protection against malware, hackers, infected URLs and thieves.

Installing

Is straight forward, download/install the app from Android Market. After installing you are able to download/install the Ant-Theft module. During install the app will request several times Superuser permissions, please grant all these requests. Anti-Theft module will also demand to allow downloading from unknown sources, you must enable this option in your phone. Don’t worry about all mentioned/demanded settings, during install the app and Anti-Theft module will do all the necessary concerning phone settings and permissions, just grant all requests and you have nothing to care about at all.

The Menu’s

Are clear, structure is well organized and leaves no room for misunderstandings. Main menu of the Mobile Security suite contains chapters Virus Scanner, Privacy Adviser, Application Management, Web Shield, SMS and Call Filter, Firewall, and finally access to the Anti-Theft module. At the moment you access this module for the first time setup is peace of cake, the module will point out demanded settings, after completing you are done.

Anti-Theft module

Is the best part of the Security suite, and highly sophisticated. It can lock and send notification to remote device of the phone’s new number and geo-location when there’s a SIM-Card change. App Disguiser and Stealth Mode to make the module invisible to thieves. Remotely phone control by sending SMS commands, the list of possible commands is huge. They can lock the device, erase content, activating a siren, aso aso, to much to mention. An automatic weekly check of the module is possible, the check can also be done manually. An issue of criticism: avast! should offer (e.g. on their site) a survey of all possible remote SMS commands, at the moment such is not available.

Malware Detection Rates

Around 79% (PCSL Mobility Security Product Test and Certificate For Android April 2012). Anti-virus can be updated automatically or manually.

Device Battery Impact

No notable battery impact: very low power consumption.

Price

Free. Despite the fact the Suited passed beta stage and is now Final, accordingly to the vendor they currently don’t plan to charge customers for it at all. It’s amazing this free product provides several useful and important features not offered by similar products of the competition, paid products included.

THE VERDICT

The Security Suite works flawlessly on my non-rooted as well rooted smartphone (SGS+), nevertheless the verdict must be separated into two parts: one part concerning the software installed on non-rooted phones, the other part on rooted devices.

Part 1: non-rooted phones.

On an ascendent rating scale of 1 to 5 I rate it with a 4. Reasons: no firewall, and Anti-Theft module not exercising it’s full potential (anti-theft hard reset protection). Hence on non-rooted phones I partially recommend avast! Mobile Security for Android, nevertheless the app offers decent protection.

Part 2: rooted devices.

On an ascendent rating scale of 1 to 5, I rate it with a 4,5.  An excellent Security Suite with tons of possibilities, everything is working just fine. An also very reliable Suite with a top-notch Anti-Theft module. I can recommend this Suite unconditionally to everybody with an already rooted Android device, despite the moderate malware detection rates to me it’s without any doubt the Best Android Security Suite there is. The overall exceptional good impression of the software on rooted phones and results of my tests is reason to provide avast! Mobile Security for Android phones on rooted phones with the  Smokey’s 2011/2012 Choice Award.

NOTES

- at the moment no web interface, vendor informed me this will change in the beginning of 2012.

LINKS

- avast! Mobile Security on Google play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.avast.android.mobilesecurity
– avast! Anti-Theft SMS commands overview: http://www.avast.com/en-us/free-mobile-security#commands
– avast! Mobile Security vendor site: http://www.avast.com/free-mobile-security
– avast! Support Forum: http://forum.avast.com/index.php?board=49.0
– PCSL Mobility Security Product Test and Certificate For Android April 2012: http://www.pcsecuritylabs.net/document/report/PCSL_Mobility_Security_Product_Test_and_Certificate_For_Android_201204_English.pdf

QR code Google play Avast! Mobile Security:

QR code avast! Anti-Theft SMS commands overview:

REVIEW UPDATES

2011-12-25: review supplemented.
2011-12-26: recommendations added.
2011-12-28: app beta status removed because in the meanwhile the Suite is now Final.
2011-12-28: vendor contacted me to discuss parts of the review. Vendor had some valid points hence I adjusted the review concerning these points. This is also the reason I adjusted the rating for the Suite on non-roooted phones: was a 3 on a rating scale from 1 -5, is now a 4.
2011-12-30: link to Anti-Theft SMS commands overview added.
2012-03-11: QR codes added.
2012-30-04: applied Malware Detection Rates from PCSL Mobility Security Product Test and Certificate for Android April 2012.
2012-05-01: Malware Detection Rates from PCSL Mobility Security Product Test and Certificate For Android April 2012 are reason to adjust the score for rooted devices, was a 5, is now a 4,5

2012-08-11: New major version avast! Mobile Security / Anti-Theft released, v2 in development stage: http://smokeys.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/new-major-version-of-the-avast-mobile-security-anti-theft-released-v2-in-development-stage-2/

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Smokey's 2011-2012 Award
Note: Awarded is avast! Mobile Security for Android on *rooted* phones
Despite the Award I don’t encourage nor recommend to root phones
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December 24, 2011 - Posted by | Anti-Spyware, Phishing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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