The free Android app EasilyDo works as a personal assistant and automation...
ESET Mobile Security 1.1 (for Android) Review
ESET Mobile Security for Android offers some interesting features, and an impressive level of granular controls, but it sorely lacks protection against intrusive apps.
(3 out of 5)
- Negligible impact on performance
- Lots of configurable settings
- Locks when thief tries to install unrecognized SIM card
- Security Audit gives quick overview of your phone’s vital functions, like battery life and disk space.
- No app audit
- No mobile firewall
- Relies too much on “Trusted Friends.” Average antivirus protection, according to AV-test.org.
Android is arguably the hottest untapped target for attackers these days, so it was only a matter of time before ESET, a veteran PC-based antivirus vendor, extended its protection to the Android operating system. ESET Mobile Security 1.1 officially launched in April at the low price of $9.99 a year.
You get what you pay for. ESET includes average-performing antivirus and effective, if clumsy, antitheft protection. It also offers a simple, effective call/text blocking feature and a Security Audit informing you of the status of vital phone functions (battery, GPS, Bluetooth, etc.).
However, ESET Mobile Security lacks a couple now-standard mobile security features: a dedicated safe browser, and an app auditor informing you of invasive app permissions and ad networks. The latter aren’t considered malicious in the traditional security sense, but if you store lots of sensitive information in your mobile device, you’ll probably want to know if an aggressive ad network is pulling too much information.
ESET ports the feel of PC security to your phone—lots of configuration settings. This makes ESET less intuitive and “invisible” as Lookout for Android ($2.99/month direct, 4.5 stars) or Bitdefender Mobile Security (for Android) ($9.99/year direct, 3.5 stars), but if you like having granular control over your mobile security, you’ll prefer ESET’s interface.
You can choose specific folders or file types to scan, determine what action to take when malware is detected, specifiy sections of the app to protect with your password, schedule updates, and so on. In Lookout, F-Secure Mobile Security 7.6 (for Android) ($39.99/year direct, 3.5 stars), McAfee Mobile Security 2.0 (for Android) ($29.99/year direct, 4 stars), and others, most of these settings are determined for you. In a mobile device, where it’s tempting to just delete security apps, I prefer having the app determine the best settings every time.
Setup is quick and painless. Create an account with your email address, and you’re good to go. Like with other mobile security apps, you have to enable ESET as a Device Administrator to use remote control tools, such as remotely locating your device.
ESET also relies a lot on Trusted Friends—like emergency contacts—just to use some of its features. Trusted Friends will be alerted for password reminders and SIM card switch-outs (more on how this works later, and to use the app’s remote controls you’ll also need to send text-based commands from one of their phones. This does enhance theft protection, but it’s an obstacle if you’ve simply misplaced your phone and your friends are out of town. We haven’t seen any other mobile security apps impose such a limitation. Add to your Trusted Buddy list by manually entering their phone numbers, or by tapping names in your contact list.
ESET scans every bit of data that enters your device, along with processes and new apps. Like Bitdefender, ESET’s Achilles’ heel is its average performance in third-party protection for antivirus. According to a comparative study by AV-test.org conducted in March, ESET blocked 65-90 percent of the threat families thrown at it, making it a second-tier app for malware protection. The top tier of products, including Lookout, F-Secure, and McAfee, detected more than 90 percent.
Unfortunately at PCMag we don’t have the facilities to test with live Android malware, so I can’t attest to ESET’s ability to detect or remove viruses and spyware. However it flagged ambiguous code in the ‘z4root’ rooting app and gave me the option to ignore, delete, or quarantine it. Good job here.
Like F-Secure, ESET uses text-based commands, which means if you lose your device you have to to text commands like “eset lock [password]” to your stolen Android phone from your Trusted Buddy’s device.
I prefer Web-based command portals because they’re easier to use (a few mouseclicks versus memorizing and typing a command line into a text message). Another problem with text-based commands is that they might not work with third-party messaging apps. For instance, ESET didn’t recognize commands from Mr. Number, a messaging app I used to replace the stock messaging/calling system.
Notably, ESET also alerts you when someone tries to insert an unrecognized SIM card (you can store up to five)—pretty neat. If this happens, ESET locks your device and texts an alert to your Trusted Buddy. The alert SMS contains the new SIM card’s phone number, the IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) number and the phone’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number.F-Secure, McAfee, and Trend Micro Mobile Security also text your trusted buddy when an unauthorized SIM is used, but don’t provide details of the swapped-in SIM.
Antispam, Device Audit, and Other Non-Traditional Features
ESET’s antispam feature is really just call/text blocking, in which the owner can add numbers to blacklist or whitelist. You can also choose to block all unknown numbers. This is a handy, simple utility, but if you want more anti-spam control, PrivacyStar and Mr. Number use crowdsourcing to block known spam callers.
Like the rest of ESET’s products, its mobile security suite also gives you access to an online cybersecurity training module that walks you through real-world scenarios using animated videos. You can run through education exercises to keep your devices safe.
ESET also comes with a Security Audit. This simply scans your device and displays the status of your battery life, Bluetooth, GPS, disk space, and other hardware elements that might pose a security risk. This is good to know information, but you can find it all through Settings. Instead, we’ve come to expect Android AV suites to audit the permissions assigned to apps, revealing those that use too many permissions.
Little Performance Impact
ESET Mobile has minimal impact on real-life performance. To test this, I performed a simple cold boot-up test—where I powered off the phone and timed how long it took to reboot, averaging three tests—on an app-laden Samsung Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.0.2 and a factory reset Samsung Galaxy S II with Android 2.3.5.
The Nexus averaged 54 seconds to boot with ESET installed, and 51.2 seconds without. On the Galaxy S II, ESET booted up in 37 seconds, and in 36.2 seconds without. This beat Lookout, which averaged 54.5 seconds on the Nexus and 37.9 seconds on the GS2.
Subpar Protection for Your Android Smartphone
I was impressed by ESET’s SIM-swapping alerts, minimal impact on performance, and simple call/text blocking. ESET also offers the most configuration settings I’ve seen in a mobile security suite—a mixed blessing.
However I was quite unpleasantly surprised to see ESET hadn’t included Web protection. Most Android antivirus these days blocks phishing ESET also lacks an app auditor that informs users of privacy-invading permissions. Furthermore ESET’s third-party malware results were only average, according to an independent testing lab. At only $9.99 a month ESET Mobile Security for Android is inexpensive and has some unique features, but personally I’d shell out for the more comprehensive protection offered by Editors’ Choice pick Lookout Mobile), which includes proven antivirus, remote controls, data backup, a secure browser, and an app auditor.
For more Android Software, see:
By Neil J. Rubenking, PCMag