(WOIO) - If given Sophie's Choice, I bet most of us smartphone owners would rather lose our wallets than our mobile devices. After all, we carry far more sensitive information—private text messages, photos, contacts, passwords—in these pocket PCs than we do in our wallets, and none of it is insured the way a good old-fashioned credit card is. Furthermore, a savvy attacker doesn't even need physical access to your device to leech information.
Fortunately, there are plenty of good free or low-cost apps offering protection from attackers, pick pocketers, snooping partners, and yes, even from yourself.
Mobile security threats aren't the same as they are on the PC. For one, malware – viruses, spyware, Trojans –is a pretty tiny threat. According to mobile security vendor Lookout, less than five percent of Android owners have ever been infected, and that rate is even smaller in the U.S. since most Android malware targets Russian and Chinese users.
Nowadays, vendors are more focused on protecting your privacy from various elements in your device. For example, last fall a researcher discovered that carriers were tracking forensics data from Android users through a piece of bloatware called Carrier IQ. Within days most of the major vendors had published apps identifying Carrier IQ.
Furthermore, most of those free, ad-monetized apps you download contain code for an ad network, some of which are a bit aggressive with the functions they perform on your device. Perhaps the best example is an ad network called "Apperhand" that secretly redirects your search queries to a pay-per-click engine, places a search icon on your mobile desktop without your permission, and pushes excessive ads to your Notifications Bar. Apperhand isn't malware in the traditional security sense, but I'm willing to bet if you had a choice, you'd rather not have these features on your devices at all. As such, most of the suites below inform you when an app contains too many permissions; some suites go further to detect APIs from aggressive ad networks.
Parental Control, Battery Savers, Encrypted Storage
All the suites offer antivirus and antitheft/loss protection, but a few bundle parental control features that specifically target young Android owners. Many security vendors are also going beyond traditional security suites to publish cheap/free standalone utility apps, like a battery life extender or safe QR code scanner. If you can combine practicality with top-notch security, why not?
I've included only Android apps for now, because Apple iOS threats are largely satisfied by tweaking native security settings.