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This is actually three questions:

  1. Are anti-viruses needed for smartphones running Android OS?
  2. Is the Android Market absolutely safe (because all precautions are taken by Google to prevent any problems)?
  3. Which are the big players in the Android Security Software market?

Thank you.

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Note: A related question discusses whether or not Android antivirus software affects devices' battery life. – unforgettableid Oct 23 '13 at 5:27
up vote 9 down vote accepted
  1. Yes and No.

    No because Android's and Linux's security scheme is impenetrable as long as you don't give Root Access or Permissions. Without root, a malicious program cannot take over your system's integrity (there is very little zero day exploit in Linux/Android). And without Permissions, malicious program cannot risk your privacy, e.g. personal data, hardware that can risk your personal data (e.g. camera, mic), location, internet, SD card, etc.

    However, Yes because nobody pays attention to those permissions and security warnings. Also, Android can still be a vector for Windows' viruses, even though the Android itself will not be affected by Windows' virus.

    The Geinimi trojan that Matt pointed out relies on the program convincing the user to went through the standard install/uninstall prompt without being suspicious.

  2. No, Market is not a safe place. Any developers can upload any program to Market, and Google does not screen those programs. However, Google will and do remove any reported rogue programs quite quickly.

  3. Refer to Matt's answer.

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Thank you. In regards to point 1: if my Android is not rooted the risk is almost inexistent? And when you say permissions, you mean the list of "requirements" in the manifest of the application? – Francisc Dec 31 '10 at 14:34
@Francisc: there is practically no way for an unrooted programs to destroy the system's integrity. However, programs running with root privilege have the power to do anything that is allowed by the hardware (including replacing system files, and nullifying the system's security). However, a phone that is not rooted can still leak your private information. Every time you install a program, you are presented with a list of permissions the program requires; this permissions controls the personal information you would share with a program. – Lie Ryan Jan 1 '11 at 15:33
Also, whatever security measure you take, there is no way the system can protect itself from you. Rogue programs will try to convince you to give itself the necessary permissions to execute their payload. – Lie Ryan Jan 1 '11 at 15:35
Thank you, Lie! I writing this before, but it seems to have been deleted somehow. – Francisc Jan 2 '11 at 11:49
  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. I prefer Lookout but all the AV companies have apps: AVG, McAffee, Norton...
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Thank you Matt. A bit "dry" but good enough. – Francisc Dec 31 '10 at 14:34

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