We evaluated the Android antivirus and data security features included with leading endpoint protection solutions to bring you our top five picks.
Credit: ShutterstockAndroid operating systems are more commonly used than all other mobile operating systems combined, according to IDC and Net Market Share. Many employees use their personal mobile phones for business purposes such as corporate email access. In the past, some employees would carry two cell phones, one for personal use and one for business. But that quickly became cumbersome, so employees started using their own mobile phones for work. This started the BYOD security challenges. And because small to midsized businesses face daily security threats, locking down that endpoint is more important than ever.
The Android security solutions we looked at provide protection for employee-owned devices that can be managed from a centralized administration console. They all passed the most recent antivirus security tests from the well-respected independent lab AV-Test. Most endpoint security companies also provide iOS security so you can manage the security for a variety of endpoints including a mixture of Android and iOS tablets and phones.
Employees should realize that if they house corporate emails and data on their phones, they have to give up some privacy. You will need to install the client-side of the Android software to their phones to control email access, file sharing and customer information. If company-owned phones are provided for employee use, you do not need permission to install the security, but you will want to make employees aware of usage restrictions and what is being monitored.
Creating a mobile device management policy is imperative, and you'll want to ensure that installs are handled correctly. However, we did notice in our research that many consumers complain after they downloaded the corporate version, thinking it is a consumer version then running into issues. Make sure your team installs the correct version and know what to expect during the installation and configuration process.
Before you decide on a company to partner with, you'll want to make sure they really are the right fit for your. The last thing you want to do is to roll out a solution only to have to remove it and redeploy something else. Look for a company with a track record of combating threats by evolving, redfining and adding new protection technology as application.
Five Popular Android Security Solutions
Benefits: Centralized control; Remote wiping; Jailbroken device monitoring; Internet security; Policy support; Storage encryption
Limitations: Android control is only available with the on-premise versions.
Bitdefender's GravityZone on-premise console versions include mobile device control and security. The introductory version protects five devices and five mail boxes for $289.99 per year. The five devices can be desktops, servers, virtual machines or mobile devices. The application can protect Windows, Mac and Linux desktops and servers. It can also provide protection for Android smartphone and tablets. Bitdefender does offer a standalone product, but it is for consumer use and is not part of an endpoint protection solution.
To help with deployment, Bitdefender's Android antivirus software can integrate with the Active Directory to identify and manage endpoints. You can access the application via the Google app store. It can track device models, serial numbers, operating systems and other phone details. Malware protection is provided as well as antiphishing, web security, application control and page blocking. Bitdefender provides policy support, reporting and access control. Processes run lightly to limit battery use.
The software provides protection from loss and theft. It can track lost devices on a map and remotely lock a phone if needed. It can also unlock the device after it is found, or it can remotely wipe the phone if it is stolen. Bitdefender also provides data encryption technologies.
Should you require assistance, Gravity Zone comes with an extensive installation manual and free 24-hour telephone, email and chat support. Professional paid services are also available. To learn more about Bitdefender mobile security, see a full review here on our sister site Tom's Guide.
Bottom Line: Affordable, flexible plans make it worth investigating.
Benefits: SMS and call filtering; Remote deployment; Centralized management; Policy support; Update rollbacks; Incident monitoring; Reporting
Limitations: It is not compatible with all older versions of the ESET Remote Administrator.
ESET Endpoint Security for Android works with the ESET Remote Administrator to protect BYOD endpoints. Protection is also available for iOS phones and tablets. To obtain pricing, you'll need to speak with an ESET representative and request a quote.
If you are already an ESET customer and use its Remote Administrator (version 6 or newer), you can easily add it to your existing ESET security plan. If you own an older Remote Administrator, you'll need to upgrade to manage Android endpoints. ESET's Android protection comes with antimalware, application control, antiphishing, SMS, call filtering and security audits. ESET reports that a large percentage of IT users choose ESET because it runs light, which may be a benefit if your network is already overworked.
This Android antivirus product can be remotely or locally installed. For remote deployment, you can send an Android application package (APK) installation file by email. All settings and policy preferences can be imported and will be activated during the install. Alternatively, you can manually configure the settings if you have access to the phone.
You can also download the app from the ESET website using a QR code or from the Google app store using an admin-supplied APK file. Admins can control Android updates, policies, security statuses and access. The admin console can manage thousands of endpoints and can group endpoints for easier management.
ESET includes antitheft and data protection features. It can remotely lock the screen, which most security software can do, but ESET will actually lock the phone and display custom contact information. If the phone is lost, the person who finds it can see the company contact information and contact the company to arrange its return. It can also manage SIM cards and identify if an unidentified card is inserted into the phone. It will automatically lock the phone if this happens. It can also find phones using its GPS coordinates, send siren alarms and wipe data remotely.
If you need assistance with installation or configuration, the ESET Android user guide is comprehensive and includes more than 40 pages of helpful information. Business customers have access to training articles, forums and license assistance. Direct support is available via email and instant chat.
Bottom Line: ESET's Android antivirus is simple to deploy, affordable and efficient, so it's worth adding to an ESET business plan.
Benefits: Application management; Selective wipes; Antispam; Jailbreaking protection; Anti-theft features; Centralized management; Containerization
Limitations: In some countries, including the U.S., you have to purchase business products through an authorized reseller partner rather than directly from Kaspersky.
Kaspersky Labs has been identifying and combating mobile malware since 2004. Android mobile security is included with all Kaspersky's business suites. Windows mobile and iOS protection is also available. These security measures are suitable for BYOD endpoint management; they utilize partitions to secure business data separately from personal data.
While Android protection is included with business suites — even the small business packages — a standalone Android antivirus product is available for $14.99 per year. Business suites range from about $110 to $770 per year. The Android antivirus software provides all basic levels of protection, including antispam, web control, antiphishing, rooting protection, access control and browser security.
This Android antivirus software is simple to deploy to your employees' phones. It allows IT staff to customize the mobile endpoint protection and then distribute it using over-the-air (OTA) technology. It sends a QR code to the mobile phones via an email or SMS message so employees can quickly complete the necessary installation.
You'll need permission to install software on employee phones, so you'll want to carefully communicate your security protocols and workarounds if necessary. Once the app is installed, you can control the security using the Kaspersky Security Center. If you need to manage a large volume of devices, Kaspersky supports role-based access for sharing IT responsibilities.
Kaspersky is a bit ahead of the game when it comes to theft and data security for employee-owned phones. While corporate email and data security is important, they are still devices not owned by the company. So it includes containerization technologies. This technology protects business apps separately from personal apps and data, and it requires a login to be used. Data saved in the containers cannot be copied and moved.
This solution can also perform partial or full wipes of data. Other antitheft features include device locking/unlocking and location detection. It can be configured to take photographs and can relay the new phone number to you if the SIM card is changed.
If you should need general support, Kaspersky provides 24-hour web ticket support. Advanced versions also include premium support incidents and accelerated support. Enterprise versions also include dedicated contact persons, monitoring and reporting. Paid professional support is also available.
To learn more about Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, see a full review here.
Bottom Line: If you can find Kaspersky products available in your area, with your desired level of service, you'll find that it offers competitive Android protection.
Sophos Mobile Control, Endpoint Protection
Benefits: Centralized management; Containerization; Remote wiping; Text commands; Spam protection; App scanning; Data encryption; Remote locking; Secure browsing
Limitations: There are a few issues with Samsung Safe devices; you can review the known issues in the latest release notes online.
Sophos Mobile Security for Android is a free download that works with its endpoint or mobile control solution. It is compatible with both the SaaS and on-premise versions. It is also able to help protect iOS devices and Samsung Knox. While the mobile phone downloads are free, you'll need to consult with Sophos about its pricing for endpoint protection. This solution provides malware protection for Android smartphones as well as app scanning, remote locking, wiping, web filtering, spam protection and data security.
The free Sophos security app can be downloaded from Google Play or from the Sophos website. It can be controlled by its Mobile Control EMM solution or using Sophos Central. Policies can be managed from the console and distributed easily.
Full disclosure: Our parent company Purch utilizes Sophos alongside products such as TeamViewer to manage enterprise endpoints, so we know first-hand how it performs in real-life scenarios. It is highly configurable and most desktop users will not even notice it is there. Mobile users will notice the software, but performance varies depending on their device and connection.
Sophos Android comes with theft and data loss prevention features. Admins can send text commands to request certain tasks be performed, and it can remotely lock and trigger alarms for lost devices. Like ESET, it can also display custom messages to whoever finds the phone. It can use tracking technologies to locate devices as well.
Like Kaspersky, Sophos utilizes containers to secure business data from personal data. Data can be encrypted and containers can secure emails, calendars and contacts. For added protection, it also supports time-based and counter-based one-time passwords.
Premium support packages and professional services such as training and security consulting are available to business users. Online resources include user guides, community support and certification training. You may also be able to find partners in your area if you desire more hands-on support. To learn more about ESET mobile security and antivirus, see here for a review from our sister site Tom's Guide.
Bottom Line: Sophos is a suitable choice if your company wants a highly configurable security option that runs light after its full implementation.
Symantec Endpoint Protection Cloud
Benefits: Centralized management; Access control; Policy management; Data wiping; Pay-as-you-go pricing models; Location technologies; Web filtering
Limitations: Online documentation is limited and solutions are customized, so you'll need to communicate with an account representative before purchase or to request a trial version.
Symantec offers mobile protection alongside its endpoint protection business versions. Android, Windows and iOS mobile and tablet security is available. If you are familiar with the Symantec Mobility Suite, you should note that it is no longer being offered and EOL support ends in September 2017. Now business mobile security is part of the endpoint suites.
If you have a corporate account, the Symantec Mobile Security Agent is a free download from Google Play. It includes basic security protocols such as web page blocking, antispam, access control, device scanning and antiphishing.
The mobile agent is designed to provide security to Android phones and tablets with access to your corporate network. While installation is simple, phone owners will not be able to uninstall the app if "device admin" is enabled. Employees should be warned that this is not a standalone consumer product and that IT will need to help with the install. It is best if company policies are used to set up the security, and employees need to know that they'll likely need help uninstalling the app if they separate from the company. Once the software is configured, you can control the mobile security from its management dashboard.
Symantec's Android antivirus includes a few antitheft and data protection features. It includes the ability to remotely wipe sensitive data. You can also remotely lock phones to prevent their usage if they are lost or stolen. It can track devices using the phones' GPS technologies and Google Maps. If an employee misplaces their phone nearby, you can send the phone a notification to sound a loud alarm to help locate it more quickly.
In terms of assistance, Symantec provides customized endpoint protection solutions, so you will need to reach out and discuss your needs with a Symantec representative. Online support documentation is available as well as one-on-one support by telephone. You can also consult with Symantec's active community for assistance.
Bottom Line: The one fallback with this product might be that setting up the Android security might be a little more resource intensive than others.
There are other Android antivirus apps we did not include in this comparison. Here are a few more options that may be included with a business package.