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.
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.
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.
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).
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)
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