Like most Android security developers, Symantec offers Norton Security antivirus Lite Version (aka Norton Mobile Security Lite Version, free, $29.99 per year for Premium) as a free download from Google Play. We’ve already reviewed the Premium Version of the app, but for those people thinking they’ll stick with the Lite version and be safe enough: think again. While the Lite Version does offer free malware scanning and allows you to remotely lock your device, it doesn’t compare to free mobile security suites or the baseline anti-theft protection provided by Google.
At PC Mag, we don’t benchmark malware detection rates for Android security apps. Instead, we rely on independent third-party labs like AV-Test. In their July report on Android security apps, AV-Test reported that Norton detected 99.8 percent of the 1,972-piece malware set. This beats the already high industry average of 95.2 percent.
In my testing I noticed that the CPU usage jumped to about 94 percent when performing a malware scan. Thankfully, it shouldn’t be too annoying since even with a dozen apps running in the background a scan of the device and its SD card only took 23.3 seconds. That’s about three times as long as our Editors’ Choice for paid Android security apps Bitdefender Mobile Security and Antivirus, but about twice as fast as avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus, our Editors’ Choice for free Android security. Rebooting the phone took a mere 30 seconds, which is how long my Samsung Galaxy S III takes to without security software installed.
In addition to performing on demand and scheduled scans, Norton also scans all apps as soon as they’re downloaded from the Google Play store, or sideloaded onto the device. It quickly detects potentially malicious apps, and makes uninstalling them a snap.
I found that Norton was quick to detect potentially malicious apps, but if I dismissed the warning I had to perform a full device scan to get the warning back. Bitdefender on the other hand, dramatically changes its homescreen once it detects something, making it easy to quickly deal with the problem.
While mobile malware is a rising threat, the most immediate danger for consumers is loss and theft. With malware detection rates clustered so high in the upper 90 percent, features like this are often the differentiators between security suites.
With a Premium account, you can remotely lock, locate, and wipe your device. You can also take a photo of the thief with the Sneak Peek feature; remotely back up, manage, and view your contacts; and activate a loud “scream” alarm. It can also alert you when your SIM card is replaced.
On the Lite Version, you’re limited to locking your phone from your Android device—which won’t do much if it’s already lost or stolen. With most other security apps, Norton Mobile Security Premium Version included, you’d control a security app’s anti-theft features from a webportal. You can access the webportal in Lite Version, though Norton greys out all the available tools.
Instead, on the Lite version you’re limited to a single SMS control to remotely lock your device. All other SMS commands are locked. To lock your phone, simply send an SMS message with the word “Lock” followed by the PIN assigned to you by Norton. Locking the device via SMS worked well, and will probably deter thieves and protect your personal information.
I’m pleased to say that Norton have ironed out most of the issues with their lockscreen. Unfortunately, the solution is buried in the settings under the name Security Lock. Without it, an attacker can briefly glimpse the lockscreen—and manipulate apps to some degree. This isn’t too dangerous, but it certainly doesn’t inspire confidence. With Security Lock enabled, the lockscreen is far more secure. Frankly, I’m puzzled why Norton didn’t enable this feature out of the box.
If you have Norton Mobile Security Lite, I recommend familiarizing yourself with Google’s Android Device Manager which can remotely locate, wipe, and now lock your device from a computer. Some of these features require set up before hand, so it pays to be prepared. Also, be sure to look at our column on what to do when your Android is lost or stolen.
Don’t Tread Litely
The Lite Version of Norton Mobile Security provides less than what I would consider the baseline level of protection for your mobile device. While it does not skimp on malware detection, its single anti-theft feature cannot compare to full-fledged free Android security apps like our Editors’ Choice avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus.
If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Norton user, or plan on purchasing Norton 360, then upgrading to the Premium version of Norton Mobile Security would be worthwhile. If you’re willing to pay for mobile security, I recommend looking to the cheaper Bitdefender Mobile Security and Antivirus 1.2.3, our Editors’ Choice for paid Android security.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc