In their Editors’ Choice award-winning Android security suite Bitdefender Mobile Security and Antivirus, Bitdefender offers top-notch malware protection and excellent anti-theft support. But what if you don’t think you need malware protection in the first place? Then let me introduce you to Bitdefender Anti-Theft (free, $3.95/year) which has all of the features that will keep your Android safe from thieves for a third the cost of the full-blown security suite.
In every report I’ve seen from independent testing labs, malware detection rates for most Android security apps hover between 96 and 100 percent. That’s fantastic for users, but it means that what differentiates most security apps is the other features they include. Anti-theft is the most important, and successful apps do well in this category by combining ease of use and strong features.
Setup with Bitdefender Anti-Theft was quick and painless, and included the option to create an account with Bitdefender using your Google account—a feature I really appreciate. Like other anti-theft apps, Bitdefender requires that you set up your device before it’s stolen. If that’s already happened, look to Android Device Manager or Plan B if you’re using an older droid.
During set up, Bitdefender will suggest that you enter the phone number of a trusted individual for sending SMS commands and receiving alerts about your device. I really like that Bitdefender encourages users to take advantage of this powerful feature, as it might otherwise be overlooked.
Most of your interaction with Bitdefender will be done through a web portal, which was a bit cluttered for my taste. I was also annoyed that I couldn’t rename my registered devices, which will surely confuse some users—especially parents with multiple, identical phones named SAMSUNG-SGH-1747.
From the site you can remotely trigger a number of options. Location will trigger automatically, presenting your device’s current location on a large Google Maps map. The location was as accurate as can be expected, though unlike Android Device Manager Anti-Theft won’t display an approximate area for devices with low accuracy results, like my Nexus 7 tablet that doesn’t have a cellular radio.
Your other options are remotely triggering an alarm, sending a message, locking your device, or wiping your device’s memory. Messages appear swiftly on your device, and give you the option to activate an alarm along with your message. The alarm sounds is harsh like an angry clock radio and registered a boisterous 98 decibels.
I had some trouble remotely locking my devices, and discovered that the anti-theft app Prey was the culprit. Once I revoked Prey’s Device Administrator privileges, the lock command went through just fine. This is why you should always test drive your security apps before actually need them.
I was happy to see that the lock command made use of the default Android lockscreen. I was unable to access the homepage, the task manager, or the notification tray on my Nexus 7 with Anti-Theft, unlike some other security apps.
Last, but certainly not least, is remote wipe, which runs a factory reset and erases everything on your device. This is a nuclear option, but can keep thieves from getting at your private information. Unfortunately, Anti-Theft does not allow you to remotely trigger your device’s front-facing camera, unlike Kaspersky Mobile Security.
If your device uses a cellular connection, Anti-Theft will send an alert SMS to the person you nominated during set up whenever the SIM card is changed. This is a really important feature, not only because it might be the first sign you get that your phone is stolen, but also because of how Anti-Theft’s SMS commands work.
With most Android security apps, being away from a computer means that you’re powerless to protect a lost or stolen device. Not so with Anti-Theft, which includes a menu of powerful SMS commands to keep you in control.
To use the SMS commands, you need a few things. First, is access to the phone number you nominated during setup. Second is the phone number of your device—which might have changed if the thief has swapped out your SIM card. This is why Anti-Theft’s SIM alerts are so important.
You’ll also need the format for SMS commands (bd-[your Bitdefender PIN] [command]) and a list of commands. Unfortunately, the easiest place to find the commands is inside the Anti-Theft app itself. Thankfully, Bitdefender includes a HELP command to let you know your options, but I’d like it if the app explained more about SMS commands during set up.
In addition to HELP, Anti-Theft has commands for LOCATE, LOCK, WIPE, and SCREAM which work as well as they do when triggered from the website. Notably, these will all return confirmation that they’ve taken effect.
There is one SMS command which is not available through the website, and that’s CALLME. Once sent, your Android device will call the number which sent the command. You could use this to spy on a thief, or instruct a good Samaritan on how to return it to you.
Bitdefender Lives Up To Its Name
Theft and loss are the most immediate threats to your Android device, and Bitdefender Anti-Theft will guard against both. Its slate of tools will help you keep your device secure no matter who is holding it, and might even help you get it back. It’s a shoe-in for our Android anti-theft Editor’s Choice award.
That said, I must warn users against going without some kind of malware protection. Scams and malware are on the rise, even if they aren’t the biggest threat today. If you can’t afford to spring for Bitdefender’s full suite for Android, get avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus to stay protected against malware and other threats.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc