Last Updated: Aug 25,2010
Do i really need an anti virus on my moto droid like Norton? Im non rooted?
You do not need it for now.
I dont believe being rooted has much to do with needing a anti-virus. Being rooted just allows installation of other roms....if you are downloading non market apps I would recomend a anti-virus
For Android an anti-virus is going to do nought. But if you also use Windows machines that you share files with on your phone it might be a good idea as you could pass on an infection to your Windows machine. If you don't use Windows then there is really no point.
Do Android anti-virus apps even look for Windows viruses?
It seems to be very hard to find out what these apps are actually doing. I only know from my Linux background that anti-virus apps for Linux (like ClamAV) only scan for known Windows viruses and are generally used on mail servers to prevent the passing on of infected files to a Windows machines. Sure you can attack a Linux system using malware or social engineering but without root access a virus is going to be useless.
Just to correct nick1986, to be rooted does not allow the installation of custom ROMs that would be a custom boot loader. A lot of people confuse root and custom ROMs because most custom ROMs come pre-rooted.
To be rooted gives you full write access to your system directories. This can leave you more vulnerable but you still have to specifically give an app permission to gain SU (root) permissions and you're not likely to give an app you don't know or trust root access.
If you are not rooted there is very little chance of a virus being able to do anything harmful unless said virus is able to root the phone and gain root access (rootkit).
Given that Linux is 15 years old and only just under 1000 viruses have been created for it (none that can actually do anything without root access) compared to Windows which is only a bit older, Symantec claimed in 2008 that there were over one million Windows viruses is circulation.
This is mainly because Windows has previously given users complete access to the file system (mainly due to limitations in the file system). They have finally addressed this with Windows Vista/7 by using a Sudo style system, but it's still not as secure as Linux.
Android is based on Linux and uses the same file and permission system.
Something to be much more worried about with Android is not viruses but malicious apps that are harvesting your data. There have been a few of these around already but have been quickly squashed by Google.
Thanks for the very clear explanation, bluenova! As you say, the Android antivirus app developers don't include very good explanations. None of them mention protecting against Windows viruses at all, though, and I couldn't find one over 1.1 Mb. This doesn't seem to allow space for the sort of virus definition database that typical antivirus programs for Windows desktops have. (None of them ever mention updating the definitions either!). Do the Linux programs you mention also need large definition databases? If so, I suspect that the Android antivirus apps are adopting a different approach, and are concentrating on "protecting" the phone. (Quote marks are intentional - I entirely agree with you about the general lack of necessity for these apps. )
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