12:46 AM

Android Phones Get New McAfee Security Option

Smartphone security suite helps protect data, find lost devices, and keep viruses from infecting Android phones. But it may cost you some speed.

Having security software on a PC or Mac is required today to help ensure your computer is safe. You cannot assume that if you stay away from certain websites, such as some file sharing services or porn sites, that your PC will remain free from attacks. Sites themselves get hacked and are turned into malware distribution centers, infecting their unsuspecting audience. The situation with smartphones is different. Do you need similar protections on your phone?

McAfee has released a security suite designed for Android phones, and it offers the ability to backup and restore data, remote locking capabilities, an audible alarm to help find a lost device, remote device wipe, real-time anti-malware protection, safe Web searching, and remote management.

Some of these features are standard fare for other platforms. Windows Phone 7 and iOS, for example, support remote wiping and support for finding a lost device through a Web portal.

The full-time antivirus software is a different story. Focused malware attacks on a smartphone platform are pretty rare--with the exception of Android. In addition to distributing over 100,000 apps, the Android Market has also been known to distribute malware itself. The most recent example is a strategy guide for Angry Birds that frustrated users could download to get tips on how to crack certain levels.

Another feature that is interesting is the safe Web searching. McAfee uses their SiteAdvisor technology to alert users to sites that are known for phishing attacks, identity theft, credit card fraud, and more. It does this by providing color-coded ratings next to search results. This is similar to how it works in desktop versions of safe searching technology.

The key question: Is this worth the cost? The financial cost isn't the only consideration--there is a performance cost as well. The full suite, called McAfee Mobile Security, costs $29.99 in the Market and is good for one year, so it is less than $3 per month. A lighter program called WaveSecure is $19.99 per year and lacks the antivirus and safe Web search features.

The performance cost is what you pay to run this software all of the time. You don't get something for nothing. Getting the SiteAdvisor rankings costs a bit of speed and some bandwidth. Antivirus programs on the PC have long been accused of sapping performance and a resource-constrained device like a smartphone won't fare any better.

The benefits cannot be ignored though. Like anything else, you have to weigh the pros and cons. Both versions provide a seven-day trial period before you have to fork over the cash. If one of these interests you, give them a thorough test drive. More detailed information can be found here. For IT departments considering installing mobile security products, playing with a relatively cheap client can be a great way to evaluate how the device performs.

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