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For users that play it straight, never going to doubted sites, never enabling APK from non-play sources... (e.g typical seniors)

Any reason to install a mobile security app?

Because

  • Such users always surf magazines and news sites. Maybe YouTube.
  • As for Trojans: Official APKs are inspected by Google. Non official APKs are disabled by Settings. Seniors hardly install what they don't know. It's mostly WhatsApp, maybe some 2D game from Play, and that's all.
  • Worms & vulnerabilities: If your phone is old and stops getting security updates, nothing can help you. Antivirus apps are apps. Hence, they can't protect you because they can't monitor and filter traffic.

Under those assumptions, for senior users, Antivirus for mobile is nearly useless. What am I missing?

Thanks

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tl:dr Yes, you need such apps and more a wholistic approach


Breaking down the possible threats (simplistically) :

1.Viruses: They don't exist on Android. See Is an antivirus really needed for Android?.

  1. : Yes a very real threat that is usually piggy backed on apps or users being lured to click spammy links and download payload.

The second one was the preferred vector: we found several news websites that have been hacked by the attackers to redirect visitors to a downloading site that serves malicious APKs

(Emphasis supplied)

How to counter this threat is quite beyond the scope here, but suffice it to say you need protection both in terms of user education and apps.

Personally, I find Addons Detector to be reliable for app related threat. But this scans apps after they have been installed so a better approach would be to scan before installing by using Yalp Store which lists all the Play store apps and importantly gives out a report from Exodus scanner (which you also can use directly via its website). Another way of doing pre-install check is submitting the app apk to Virus Total (Thanks to Izzy's suggestion)

Several malware detection apps are available and it is upto your discretion to choose.

  1. : Apps invading your privacy is another big threat. Apart from choosing open source apps which reduce this possibility, real protection often requires rooting your device, which is not what an average user does.

Tangentially, as one grows old, convenience takes precedence over security and apps can easily invade their privacy (permissions).

  • Your second bullet point is highly debatable. You are assuming that Google Play scanning is robust and therefore offers adequate security.

This is simply not true. A Google search for play store apps removed shows at least three instances in last six months when apps were removed from Play Store. One may say that this is evidence of Google tightening security but OTOH your target group of senior citizens may have already been affected! Quoting from one report picked at random to emphasize this

The report also adds that some of the apps dated least a year back and had been downloaded million of times.

Alternative is to install open source apps from . I do agree that equivalents are not always available but such security apps discussed earlier have a role in supplementing defense.

Choosing open source apps and user education reduces risk partially at least along with selection of right malware apps.

What started as a comment, turned into a long answer (and incomplete). That said, premises of Google Play Protect screening being robust , assuming news websites to be safe or downloading simple games as harmless are not necessarily true as proved often, time and again.


Additional information

Sourced from Izzy's blog (thanks)

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    Thank you for revising this. Addons Detector is a good thing you suggested. I'll check it out. +1 though. :) – Firelord Mar 6 at 6:01
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    Addon Detector is a good suggestion – but doesn't that only work for apps you have already installed? That's already too late then in some cases. So additional suggestion: Check Exodus before (if the app comes for free), or Appbrain (which also lists libraries for paid apps, but is less complete). If Exodus lists 20 trackers (well honestly, strike the 0), crap the app. If it has a few, check their descriptions to decide. Avoids a bunch of potentially dangerous apps. If the APK is available, uploading/checking with VirusTotal and/or ApkScan is another potential measure one can take. – Izzy Mar 6 at 7:48
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    Thanks. Yeah, basic users like seniors and, frankly, most of the people, are hard to educate to internet caution. I suppose that an AV is the least of the worst. Even worse, I have seen updates to preinstalled apps that became malware (e.g Galaxy S6 IR manager). I wish I could have had a more wholistic solution, but ... when it comes to technophobes, this will have to do :( Thanks again – Maneki Neko Mar 6 at 17:19
  • "I have seen updates to preinstalled apps that became malware" – never seen that on F-Droid. So really, safest way is to deactivate all GApps you don't need – and only use apps from F-Droid, as @beeshyams already suggested. Minimizes risks considerably (though it cannot help against "drive-by downloads"). And speaking of ads: my Android app lists give you a good idea of how many trackers etc. come with one app (but not with the next one that covers the same functionality). – Izzy Mar 6 at 21:43
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    @beeshyams thanks for integrating! I just added the link for Exodus. – Izzy Mar 6 at 21:46

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