It's been a question that users have been asking for a long time, security firms have been answering one way and Google another. That question is whether or not Android users need to invest in anti-virus software to protect themselves from malware. Obviously, those that develop and sell such software will tell you that yes, of course you need to protect your smartphones and tablets. Google however, has long maintained that it's just not needed, at least for the vast majority of users that is. In fact, just before Google I/O kicked off last month, Adrian Ludwig – lead security engineer for Android – stated that 99% of Android users simply don't need anti-virus software.
Ludwig went on to tell journalists that "I don't think 99 per cent plus users even get a benefit from [anti-virus]" saying that "in practice most people will never see a potentially harmful application from our data". Unsurprisingly, security firm Sophos is now challenging these claims during a post on their NakedSecurity blog. Sophos challenges Ludwig's comments, citing recent risks like the Virus Shield app that over 10,000 users installed, exposing their device to malware. Citing the consequences, which can often be devastating, those who have their devices hacked Sophos think that everyone should install an anti-virus program on their device. For one more surprise, Sophos end their blog post with a handy link to their own – free – anti-virus program for Android.
So, who's right? Well, this comes down to what sort of user you are. If you're the type of user to keep on the straight and narrow, only downloading apps with a good reputation from the Play Store and you only browse reputable websites, then you're less likely to need any sort of security software. However, things do fall the cracks of Google's security wall in the Play Store – like the Virus Shield fiasco – and if you do have sensitive information on your device, then yes, it would make sense to make further precautions. This is something that Ludwig himself went on to detail, saying that "If I were to be in a line of work where I need that type of protection it would make sense for me to do that. [But] do I think the average user on Android needs to install [anti-virus]? Absolutely not".
It's nice that companies like Sophos are 'looking out for us', but at the end of the day I personally believe that the vast majority of users don't need to install such a piece of software. A lot of the time, common sense and caution are the best ways to keep your device safe, if something doesn't add up quite right, then staying away is the best practice. Still, this isn't to say Google can rest on their laurels, it's clear that the Play Store still has some work to do when it comes to keeping bad code out. What do you guys think? Let us know where you stand in the comments below.