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Denise asked: “My husband is wondering if it’s necessary to install antivirus software on his smartphone.”
Denise, you can tell him he should be just fine without it.
Smartphones are not like computers, unless the phone is jailbroken or rooted, apps are limited to their own folders and viruses can’t spread outside of that little folder.
What he can do to keep himself safer is to pay attention to what permissions apps ask for. Does that compass app really need access to his contacts? Does that picture gallery really need access to your text messages?
Most smartphone apps with malicious intent actually ask you to give them access to what they want from you, since it’s the only way they can access that information.
Some smartphone antiviruses do check the websites you visit to try to determine whether or not they’re legitimate, and there is some value to that. Websites can sometimes pretend to be native smartphone apps or settings, and can trick some people into giving away their information. It can also help people avoid some phishing scams, for example, if you type a url wrong.
Generally speaking though, you can skip the antivirus, it’s not needed on smartphones as it is on the much more flexible traditional computers.
One thing we should mention, though, in any discussion of smartphone safety, is that downloading your apps from an official app store, whether the iTunes App Store or Google Play or Amazon App Store, is no longer the guarantee against malicious apps that it used to be.
For instance, the Apple website 9-to-5 Mac recently published an article on the sudden rise in fake shopping apps just before the holiday shopping season. Apple’s App Review process hasn’t been catching them, and these apps are stealing the trademarks of the brand they are pretending to be, so visually you won’t have a clue. The fact is, it falls to you to make certain you’re downloading a good app.
Take the time to read reviews. If you’re looking at what should be a major brand’s shopping app and it has no reviews, or next to none, that’s a major red flag that this might be a fraudulent app.
Similarly, Motorola once said that up to 70% of their smartphone returns were due to “bad Android apps.” So encourage your husband to be skeptical and check the reviews. Just because something as slipped past Apple or Google’s front door doesn’t mean it’s a good app.