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F-Secure Mobile Security 7.6 (for Android) Review
Pairing antivirus with parental controls, F-Secure Mobile Security will appeal to parents of Android-wielding children. But there are slicker, more appealing mobile security apps for adult consumers.
(3.5 out of 5)
- Top-tier anti-virus according to AV-test.org
- Bundles parental controls
- Notifies trusted buddy if SIM card gets switched out.
- Weak content filtering
- Lacks backup, app auditing
- Slows boot up times.
F-Secure Mobile Security 7.6 for Android ($39.99/year or $59.99/2 years, direct) is part of an elite, seven-member group of the best-performing Android antivirus, according to a recent comparative study by independent testing lab AV-Test.org. Like Trend Micro Mobile Security for Android ($29.99 direct), F-Secure also includes parental controls, namely contact blacklisting, content filters, and app blacklisting. McAfee Mobile Security and Norton Mobile Security don’t offer these features: you would need to download separate apps for parental control.
F-Secure also includes now-standard mobile security features like a firewall and anti-theft protection, but lacks an app scanner that informs you of all the permissions requested by your apps. If you want an app auditor to run alongside F-Secure, consider our Editors’ Choice pick Lookout for Android or BitDefender Mobile Security. It also lacks the data backup features found in Lookout, McAfee, and NetQin Mobile Security.
I tested F-Secure on both an app-laden Samsung Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.0.2 and a factory reset Samsung Galaxy SII with Android 2.3. If you’re an iOS user, check out Lookout for iPhone.
F-Secure Mobile isn’t offered in the Android Market, so, ironically, you’ll have to temporarily lower your device’s security by changing the default settings to allow downloads from outside the Android Market, and then download F-Secure directly.
After installing the app I had to activate a phone lock, create a passcode, enter a trusted buddy’s phone number, and accept F-Secure as a Device Administrator before continuing. Device Admin permission just gives the app system-level access to perform remote wipe and lock. Afterwards, the app prompts you to run a full scan of the device, including SD memory card. This only took a couple minutes on my Nexus with 136 installed apps.
A+ Antivirus Protection
F-Secure’s biggest bragging point is its powerful, top-tier antivirus protection, as noted by AV-Test.org. Along with six other apps– Lookout, Kaspersky, avast!, Dr. Web, IKARUS, and Zoner– F-Secure successfully detected more than 90 percent of the threats thrown at it. Many Android security apps, including those from Bitdefender, AVG, and Norton, detected less than 65 percent, while a few brand names like McAfee NetQin detected less than 40 percent.
F-Secure automatically blocks malware and spyware. If it finds an app containing suspicious code, like a rooting app, it gives you the option to keep or toss it. Although mobile antivirus is always recommended, in reality, the likelihood you’ll get infected is still less than five percent, especially if you stick to the Android Market.
You can schedule a recurring scan on a daily or weekly basis, or on demand if you want to save juice. I like the option of adjusting my cloud protection settings to turn off automatically when I’m not within my own cell phone network, to avoid data roaming fees.
As with Lookout and BitDefender, F-Secure’s antivirus component is activated whenever your device attempts to make a connection to the server: when you’re installing an app, opening it for the first time, or surfing the Internet. It even scans the connection to detect man-in-the-middle attacks. It can do this because F-Secure works closely with ISPs.
F-Secure’s firewall works with the stock Android browser to block malicious websites and phishing attempts. The app blocks all other third-party browsers, which is safer than BitDefender or McAfee, which don’t. Lookout Mobile is the only app we’ve seen that protects your surfing on any browser.
In F-Secure, parental control is all about blacklisting things from your child’s Android device: websites, contacts, apps you don’t want Young Dick or Jane to use. Naturally you have to enter your passcode to tweak these control settings.
For Web content filtering, you can select a pre-defined blacklist of sites based on your child’s age, or select from 15 content categories such as adult, dating, drugs, gambling, hate crimes, ec. I tried ‘Adult’ and ‘Social networking sites.’ Social networking blocked all the usuals: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, Match.com, OKCupid.
The Adult filter left a bit too much to be desired, if you know what I mean. I managed to log into YouPorn, a popular porn site, and various online sex shops. Like McAfee Family Protection Android Edition, Googling “b00bs” and “c0ck” showed search results but wouldn’t let me load them. It did, however, point out some sex commerce sites (mostly sex shops) that I was able to load. McAfee and eBlaster were much more effective at preventing this kind of surfing.
Is someone harassing your child on the phone? F-Secure also lets you blacklist contacts and phone numbers, and you can also see a history of blocked calls and timestamps. Norton Online Family To Go Beta (Free) and PhoneSheriff ($49.97 direct) let you schedule times when phone calls are allowed. PhoneSheriff also blocks certain apps and phone functions.
You can also blacklist apps on the Android device, which may be useful if you’ve got a little Facebook or Twitter addict in your hands. The greater challenge will probably be wrestling the device from your child’s hands, as this feature can only be managed from the device itself.
To test how the app affects system performance, we conducted a cold boot up where I powered off the phone and timed how long it took to reboot, averaging three tests. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus took 66 seconds to restart with F-Secure and 51.7 seconds without. That extra 15 seconds feels long on a mobile device.
Lookout was only slightly faster, averaging 54.5 seconds on the Nexus. Meanwhile my GSII with F-Secure took 36.8 seconds to boot and 36.2 seconds to boot without F-Secure. I found similar results in Lookout and McAfee.
Remote Controls in the Palm of Your Hand
Like virtually every mobile security app out there with Anti-theft tools, F-Secure offers a few ways to relieve the fear of misplacing your phone: remote locate, wipe, lock, and alarm.
First, you can geo-locate it as long as your phone is connected to GPS or cell-tower triangulation. Second, you can remotely lock and wipe the phone of all data if you think it’s been stolen. And third, you can make your phone emit a very loud sound that would either unearth it from a pile of dirty laundry or scare a thief.
All of these commands are done by texting a coded SMS (which includes your secret passcode) from another phone; others like Lookout, BitDefender, and McAfee use Web-based commands. F-Secure’s text-based Parental Controls are handy for a parent wondering where his or her child is, but it’s not so practical if you’re alone in your house and can’t find your phone. From whose phone will you text a locate command?
It took five minutes for F-Secure to send me a text message with a URL to a Google Map marking my missing phone’s location; if your phone has been stolen, five minutes is definitely too long. On the other hand if a thief swaps out your SIM card, F-Secure will text your trusted buddy like McAfee and Trend Micro.
F-Secure Mobile doesn’t backup your data like Lookout, McAfee, and NetQin Mobile. However there are plenty of excellent, free Android apps that’ll do that for you, like Titanium Backup so McAfee’s unlimited backup really just means having one less app to manage.
Better Safe Than Sorry With F-Secure
Bundling a fairly comprehensive set of parental controls, F-Secure Mobile Security is clearly geared towards concerned parents of Android-wielding children. F-Secure’s Android antivirus bears the stamp of approval from AV-Test.org. Lookout for Android is still our Editors’ Choice for Android antivirus, however, because it offers a much more user-friendly experience in addition to top-tier antivirus.
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By Sara Yin, PCMag