Free Complete Security For Your Android Smartphone

Free Complete Security For Your Android Smartphone

After coming out of Beta toward the end of December, avast! Free Mobile Security has gained much attention. These guys are offering everything the other anti-virus/security apps bring to the table and then some. Complete with root features (yes, you heard that right), this is the fullest security app we have ever used. All for a price everyone can afford – free.

There are two main types of dangers, though: malware/phishing (rare, but possible) and physically loosing your device. Android holds a huge market and may become a main target soon. This is why Windows users are at more danger than other PC operating systems.

Owning an Android smartphone comes with great responsibilities. These gadgets are not only nice and expensive, but their value extends to its power. These are very powerful devices and usually hold information that should not fall into the wrong hands, whether it be physically or virtually. One of the apps that best protects you happens to be avast! Mobile Security, so let’s take a look at its features.

Virus Protection

While not the most exciting (because all other competing apps offer it), this is the main function of the avast! app. There are certain apps or files that will put your device and private information at risk. There are many who believe smart app-shopping can get rid of such worries.

It is definitely good to read app reviews, stick to official app stores (avoid piracy), revise the permissions and make sure you do not download a “fake” app. These practices will put you in a safe position, but many users are not always that attentive. Even if they are, there’s always a small risk.

A bit of extra protection has never harmed anyone (and it isn’t really a battery hog). Avast! Mobile Security will spot any app or file that is potentially dangerous. This app allows you to run full scans on both your phone and your microSD card. If it happens to find a dangerous app/file, a notification will alert you and give you the option to delete it.

It is also important to note that avast! is very proud of its virus protection software. They attest to the fact that this is no simple black-list virus protection. Avast! looks into every file and app, searching deep into its backbone for any dangerous coding.

The avast! software also checks every app that is installed on your device, informing you if it is secure before you ever use it. This happens right at the moment of installation (just like Lookout and some other competitors). I have never ran into any virus/malware on my device, but we saw a good demonstration straight from the avast! team. It works as advertised.

Privacy Advisor

This is a very simple and straight-forward feature and can also be very helpful. Privacy Advisor looks into each app, letting you know which have access to potentially dangerous permissions. It organizes them by permission category.

After accessing the Privacy Advisor window, there will be a list of permissions with a number right next to it. This indicates how many apps have access to the given permission. This includes apps that have access to your location, phone identity info, contacts, etc.

After tapping on a permission, it will display all the apps that have access to it. You can see more details by tapping on specific apps. You can access the system info, force close it, and read what each permission allows the application to do. It’s simple and organized and may help you spot which apps have access to things that they probably should not.

Application Manager

This one is more of a cool extra feature than it is helpful. It pretty much serves the same purpose as the “Manage Applications” under your Settings. It allows the user to see all the applications installed in the device, force close them and read their system resources (size, CPU usage, etc), as well as Privacy Info (permissions and what they mean).

It is possible to order the app list by name, size, memory, CPU and running apps. There’s also a “System Info” button, which pretty much directs you to your system settings (Manage Applications).

Web Shield

This is much like Lookout’s web phishing protection, which is included with their paid premium services. It basically searches every site you access for potential threats beforehand.

The internet is a very wild place, and even if you know your cellphone’s apps and files are secure, the web may not be. There are websites that attempt to get private information for fraudulent activities. With phishing protection accessing, surfing the web and clicking random links will be much safer.

After using this for weeks, I have not noticed any lag in the browser. Other services that offer this feature show a slight delay every time you access a website. It may not bother many, but it is nice to see that avast! has made the process rather smooth.

SMS & Call Filter

This is one of the most helpful features that the avast! app offers. The user can block incoming text messages and calls, as well as outgoing calls to/from specific phone numbers. For some reason it cannot block outgoing texts, though. Regardless, this is a very helpful feature.

The filter can be set by groups, and you can choose what time and days you want the phone number(s) to be blocked. It is also possible to toggle on/off outgoing calls and incoming texts and calls separately. If you happen to miss any important calls/texts, there’s also a log that informs you of all the times a call or text was blocked.

This turns out to be very convenient. Not only is it good for avoiding stalkers, or to prevent your parents or wife/husband from calling you during working/school hours, but it also works as a parental control tool. Yes, you can stop your kids from calling you (or anyone else) during school hours. Simply block the numbers you don’t want your kids sending or receiving texts and calls from, and you’re set.

The avast! app can be password protected, so it wouldn’t be possible for anyone else to change the settings. Unless, of course, the user uninstalls the avast! app. This loophole can be fixed if avast! were to include password protection for other apps (or if you use the firewall, which we will talk about in a bit). It would be a great addition in the future, but avast! currently focuses on security more than parental controls.

I have tested this feature and use it frequently. It works like a charm, and it has never failed me.

Firewall (Root Feature)

Everything mentioned above is great, but root features are what really makes avast! stand out from the crowd. The Firewall is only available for rooted devices, but it can be of great use if you have rooted your device.

The Firewall’s purpose is to let you block apps (of your choice) from being launched. It allows you to choose whether you want them to be blocked while in WiFi reach, 3G or roaming.

There are countless reason why you might want to use this feature. The most notable include saving battery life and data consumption. Certain apps are battery/data hogs, and you may not want them running all the time. This Firewall allows you to stop these apps from running, whether it be through direct interaction or in the background.

This also helps as a parental control tool. It is definitely a good idea to stop your kids from accessing certain apps.

It would be amazing to see this feature work in non-rooted devices. This may be much more complicated to achieve, though. Wouldn’t it be nice to block all that bloatware? In my experience it worked very well, and I highly recommend it for root users.

Anti-Theft (with Root Features)

Now this is where the fun begins. With avast!’s acquisition of Theft Aware, its anti-theft services have been taken to a whole new level. Odds are you won’t get any viruses on your phone. But how many of us have lost a device in the past? Many.

These devices hold our life. From social networks and contacts to bank and credit card information. You definitely don’t want anyone having power over such private details.

After testing avast!’s anti-theft solution, I can honestly say that this app offers the most full-featured service available. It is a whole other application by itself (literally). Remote actions include lock, wipe and siren, as well as an abundance of remote text commands. (You can see them at their website).

Remote text commands are an amazing addition to this mobile security app. Yes, you can locate, lock/unlock, turn on the siren, and wipe a device, but that’s not where it ends. You can access all types of information, apps and settings. The list includes accessing your contacts, changing all settings within the avast! app, and even initiating a remote call (letting you listen to the thief). All you need to do is send a text message to the lost device, starting with the password (selected after installation), and then write the remote command code (listed in the website).

After installation, the user is prompted to choose two “friend numbers.” You can set these text commands to only be available via the specified phone numbers. This will stop any user with access to your password from controlling your device.

Avast! also features SIM card change notifications. If the thief happens to change the SIM card, you will be notified of such action. If this action occurs, you can set the phone to be locked, the siren to be activated, or even have message sent to you with the new number, as well as the location. Multiple account users can also set up a “white list” of SIM cards to be used with the device.

The reason I say this is “literally” a whole application is because it really is. The anti-theft portion of avast! Free Mobile Security is another .apk file, which can be named whatever you wish it to show up as, and has an unrecognizable icon (stealth).

After installation you will be asked to download a separate package for the anti-theft features. Both of these apps work completely parallel to each other, but separately. You can uninstall the avast! main app, and the anti-theft app works perfectly on its own. Add root access to the equation, and you can even install anti-theft straight to the system files. This will allow you to keep tracking and controlling a device even after a factory data reset (does not bypass a ROM flash – not like most people even know how to do this, though). Now that is impressive.

It is important to note that auto-GPS can only be set with root access. Google has blocked automatic access to GPS within Android 2.3 Gingerbread. This means that it is only possible to activate GPS through direct interaction. But if this is nothing that “superuser” powers can’t take care of.

After testing all these features, no problem was found. The only downside (for now) is that there is no website portal for this, like there is for competing products. It would be much easier to do all of these tasks through a website, instead of having to rely on texts for location data, as well as all the other services. The avast! team has given us word that this part of the service is under development, though, and it should be released sometime in Q1 2012.

This may be a bit of a downside, but we will be getting the website soon enough. When it is released, avast! will be even more amazing. In a private demonstration, we were able to send texts straight from the Theft Aware site, and using all the available anti-theft services was a breeze. The interface was very well organized, and it was definitely much simpler than the text commands.


The anti-theft team (formerly Theft Aware) highly emphasized the importance of stealth when I attended their presentation. While some thieves may not think as far, many of them may have a bit of knowledge in smartphone technology. In which case, they would try to get rid of any type of tracking software installed in the device.

For the avast! team, it was vital to make these apps hard to uninstall (hence why they made them separate apps). They have used a few techniques to give the bad guys a hard time.

First, the anti-theft app can be named whatever you prefer, and the icon is not recognizable (default system icon). You can call this app “Notes,” or even something that will disguise it more, like “binaries,” or “cache.” Anything that does not grab get the thief’s attention will work.

After anti-theft is enabled, the app goes on “Stealth Mode.” This means that it disappears from your app drawer, and is much harder for someone to find it.

You can also get rid of the avast! notification, which is pretty flashy. And the GPS icon does not show up in the notification bar when being tracked.

All of these in conjunction allow you to stay in control of your device for a longer period of time. The chances of protecting your information, and even getting the device back, are much higher.


avast! Free Mobile Security is one of the most (if not the most) full-featured security apps out there, with anti-theft solutions that blow the competition out of the water. The team has done a tremendous job protecting your PCs, and seeing them jump into the mobile world is exciting, as well as expected by all avast! users. Whether you believe anti-virus apps are a scam or not, there is at least one thing in this app you will probably want to take advantage of.

We highly recommend that you try this app. After all, it won’t cost you a penny. Its profusion of security features and amazing anti-theft services are nothing to scoff at. Not to mention avast!’s ingenious use of root access, which makes your device much more secure.

As a loyal Lookout user, I can say that it was very hard to get me to change. I even stopped using anti-virus for some time. But avast! Free Mobile Security is hard to pass by. If the developers get that anti-theft web portal released soon, and keep working as hard as they have been, the future will be bright. With a bit more polishing, no Android security app will be able to compete against avast!, especially if it continues to be free.

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One comment

  1. I have a desktop computer ( family computer ) that’s completely messed up with terrible viruses. Just wondering if it’d be possible to install Avast on my working laptop and then place it into a flash drive and put Avast on my computer? I’d love step by step instructions on how to do so..
    @Tofus: will the download do more than just scan the computer?

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