As smartphones are becoming more like mini computers every day, they are starting to develop some of the problems we are all too familiar with in the world of desktop computing. Ten years ago you never needed to worry about your phone crashing, or slowing down to a halt because it had been filled up with so many apps. But perhaps the biggest problem now facing smartphones is the startling rise of malware.

android marketplace malicious appsMalware, or malicious software, has been a big problem on personal computers for more than 15 years, and gets worse with every passing year. As a result, there are many antivirus programs available. Viruses and spyware typically affected users of Microsoft Windows, as this is the most used operating system and there is potentially a lot of money to be made by malware developers.
As smartphones are becoming more commonplace, this potential to make money through malicious smartphone apps is increasing all of the time. Many people will have their credit card details tied into their phone for use with app stores, and may even use internet banking on their phone. These details can probably be more easily obtained from a smartphone than they can from a home computer due to the sophistication of desktop antivirus programs.

But the threat to phones is new, and so antivirus apps are not quite at the same level of sophistication as those for personal computers. Although Windows Phone and the iPhone are not immune, Google’s Android is probably the most affected by malware with Android malware doubling in the last six months alone. Google has recently pulled 22 malicious apps from Android Market, but because of the open nature of Android there are plenty of threats from apps downloaded from the internet.

Along with spyware designed to record people’s key presses or details, the most common type of malware for Android is known as an SMS Trojan. This will pose itself as a respectable app, perhaps a free version of a premium app or a downloader for a popular game. On the surface, the malware app may work as intended, but it will also subscribe the user to premium rate SMS services. It is estimated that in 2011 alone, around $1 million has been stolen from Android phone users in this manner, and it is expected to get exponentially worse in the next 12 months.
So what are the best antivirus apps for Android to help protect yourself from this barrage of malware?

AVG Antivirus Free

This is the antivirus that I use on my own smartphone, having been familiar with AVG on my home computer for many years. The best thing about AVG is that it offers high quality protection but is available for free use.

AVG will automatically scan apps when they are downloaded, and will also scan new media when it is added to your phone via other methods (Wi-Fi or USB). Just like the desktop version, there is a Pro version and additional plugins to add extra security available for a small fee.

One of the things that has made AVG so popular on home computers is that the program is updated frequently, ensuring that you have the most recent protection on offer.

Download AVG Antivirus Free on the Android Marketplace

Lookout Mobile Security

Lookout will scan apps as they are downloaded, and will also rescan them on a daily or weekly basis. The best thing about Lookout is that is includes the “Find my Phone” feature, similar to the service offer on HTCSense.com for HTC Android phones.

Using this service you can locate your phone if it gets lost or stolen, with the device appearing on a map. You can then remotely back up all of your important data and then wipe the phone rendering it useless to whoever has it. Lookout offers protection not just against malicious apps but also malicious people who may steal your phone.

Download Lookout Mobile Security on the Android Marketplace

Super Security

Super Security is a cloud based antivirus app that is available for free download. It provides you with a ‘strongbox’ to store all of your sensitive personal data. Super Security includes many options, including virus scan, app manager, task manager and the ability to find your phone when it is lost.

Download Super Security on the Android Marketplace

Webroot Security and Antivirus

This is another free app that not only protects against malware but also offers online protection, identity protection and as well protecting against phishing and SMS attacks. Webroot automatically scans apps when they are added to the device. Like some of the other apps on this list, Webroot can also help you to locate a lost or stolen device.

Download Webroot Security and Antivirus on the Android Marketplace

Zoner AntiVirus Free

Zoner is another free app that can protect against malware, viruses, Trojans, dialers, worms and also protects your messages and phone calls. Zoner automatically scans new apps and gives you the option to scan your phone or SD card. Zoner can also protect your phone and SIM card if you device is lost, and help you to locate it in such an eventuality.

Download Zoner Antivirus Free on the Android Marketplace

With the explosion in Android malware in the last year, there has also been an increase in the amount of antivirus apps available. Sometimes it can feel as though there are far too many to choose from, although there are plenty that offer a great range of features to protect you from malicious apps and losing data from a stolen phone. As recent malware apps like to disguise themselves as respectable apps you should always be careful that ay antivirus app you download is not itself a virus. By reading customer feedback and sticking to well-known companies you can ensure that you get the best protection available for your Android phone.