Malwarebytes: Protection for Android

Category: Mobile , Security

Malwarebytes has released the latest Android version of its acclaimed security suite. It’s not just a port of MBAM for Windows, but a program carefully designed for mobile devices and the threats their users face, even from apps that they trust. Read on to see how Malwarebytes for Android works…

Review: MBAM for Your Android Smartphone

Installing Malwarebytes for Android (let's call it MBAM-A, okay?) from the Google Play store is simple, if you know a secret that should not be a secret. The first time you open MBAM-A after installation, it will pause at the "Welcome to Malwarebytes for Android" screen. No matter what you tap or click, nothing will happen.

Oddly, this reminded me of the text-based "Colossal Cave Adventure" game, circa late 1970s. There was a secret command "xyzzy" to teleport yourself from one room to another. But if you used that command in the wrong room, the game would respond with "Nothing happens."

I was tempted to shout "xyzzy" but then I noticed the four dots -- a subtle clue that you have to swipe your finger across the screen, right-to-left, to get things going. (I added the red arrow for emphasis.) Nowhere do the words, “swipe left to continue” appear on this screen. That’s pretty bad design. Fortunately, you’ll see this screen only once.

MBAM for Android

MBAM-A looks for malware and ransomware, and blocks it before it can infect your phone. It will also detect malicious links in text messages, email, or websites. It can also identify apps that have the ability to track your location, monitor your calls, or cost you money.

Once started, MBAM-A quickly scans your Android device (phone, tablet, Chromebook, etc.) and gives you a compact summary of “issues” it has found. These fall into several categories, which you can access by tapping the “hamburger” of three stacked line in the upper-left corner of MBAM-A’s main screen.

Security: includes scanning functions and a “security audit” of your device’s system settings. Scanning will find malware and PUPs - potentially unwanted programs. I was surprised to learn that my phone had 332 apps and 6000 files, but glad to see that there was no malware found. The security audit will show you system settings that might allow hackers to infiltrate your device, and how to change them to close those holes.

One example is the recommendation to turn on device encryption. If you do so, you'll need to enter a passkey each time you power on the phone. The upside is that if your phone is lost or stolen, your data will not be accessible. But if you forget the passkey, you're out of luck.

If you click the little gear icon on the Security screen, you can tell MBAM-A to scan after every restart, scan only while your phone is charging, or schedule daily or weekly scans.

App Manager: “Your apps” shows system apps that come with Android and, separately, apps that you have installed, including minutiae such as how many minutes and seconds each app has been open. The “privacy audit” is truly handy. It shows at a glance how many apps have permission to use various Android features that may endanger your privacy.

Those permissions include "can read personal info", "can track location", "can cost you money", "can access text messages", and "can access calendar". Tap on a permission category to review each app that can access that permission, and decide whether to keep the app, or modify its permissions.

For instance, apps that can access your location should be scrutinized. I wondered why the Starbucks and Chase Bank apps needed to know that. But I remembered that both of them have the ability to find a nearby retail store or branch. To do so, they need to know where you are. (We just have to trust that they won't use that permission to otherwise monitor our comings and goings.)

Similarly, you should not be worried that Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp can access your messages and contacts. But if you have a game or flashlight app that wants to access your location, contacts, calendar, or phone calls, that's cause for concern.

If you have the Android Marshmallow or later operating system, you can open Settings > Apps, tap an app’s name, then tap App permissions. From there, you can toggle individual permissions on or off. If you have an older Android version that does not have the "App permissions" option, your only recourse is to remove the app from your device.

General: Here you’ll find the gear icon that universally represents “Settings.” Things you can set include Scanning options and the types of protection that you wish to enable. Real-time protectors and anti-ransomware protection are enabled by default. Scanning URLs sent to you via text message is a very good thing enable. “Safe browsing” scanning is also an option. Automatic updates can be enabled and limited to WiFi connections, saving cellular data costs.

MBAM-A is free to try. It comes with a 30-day trial of the app’s full range of Premium features. Those Premium features include real-time "always on" scanning, anti-ransomware protection, anti-phishing protection, and a "remote security" option, which allows you to secure your phone remotely via text messaging.

At the end of the 30-day trial, you can pay $39.99/year to retain the Premium features, or revert to the free version. In the free version, you can still scan for malware and other threats, but you have to remember to initiate the scan on your own schedule. This is pretty much the same as the Windows version of MBAM, which lacks the real-time scanning feature.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Malwarebytes: Protection for Android"

Posted by:

02 Nov 2017

As much as I love MBAM, I'm not going to pay a yearly subscription so exorbitant. I might consider $9.95 a year, but even then I'm unsure. I'll just keep practicing safe surfing and downloading habits as well as leaning on my anti-virus to keep me safe.
It seems more and more companies are going to a subscription based model these days. I understand why many of them do, but they need to understand my wallet also. $40 a year for mobile malware protection is way over the line for me.

Posted by:

Ken Ormson
02 Nov 2017

Hello Bob,
I downloaded the MBAM-A app and ran its scan.

I had 361 apps and 9680 files, which was interesting to know.

However, it flagged the "Where's my Droid" app as malware. This helps one to find a lost handset and disable it remotely.

So, I marked it to be ignored.

Otherwise, it seems to be a very useful app.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Posted by:

Bill Riley
02 Nov 2017

Just wanted you to know that I can not and will not subscribe to or recommend malwarebytes. I have never had a computer protection product that caused more problems in my computer than malwarebytes and their "technical support" is pretty much useless and nonexistent.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2017

Since the introduction of the "new and improved" version 3.x of MBAM came out, I'm hesitant to use anything they offer. I had to uninstall v.3.x and re-install an older version, then jump through hoops to keep it from automatically updating itself to v.3.x again. (I still get updated signatures.)

I use the free version of eset mobile security. It doesn't do everything MBAM-A does, but it's light on memory and it's free!

Posted by:

02 Nov 2017

It seems that the MBAM-A application has several bugs.

E.g., the app might inform you that “your device has issues”. Clicking on “Fix” will lead to a dead end. Moreover, the app might pop-up a bright red warning about a certain malicious application but there would be no “Remove” button to click on.

The McAfee app performs just fine.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2017


Posted by:

02 Nov 2017

Regarding location access, this used to be a problem with Uber. I got in the habit of manually turning on access when I needed their service, then turning it off when I was through. They recently improved the app so it only gets location information while the app is running.

As for Starbucks, Chase Bank and the like, it should be sufficient to give their apps access to your location only when you specifically request location-based information. There is no need for this to be always-on.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2017

Last year Malwarebytes had an issue with PC Matic, which I have and like. The new Android version is awesome. PC Matic does the exact same thing as Malwarebytes and does it better in my opinion. Everybody's different and has different opinions. Whatever works, as they say!

Posted by:

02 Nov 2017

I have used the free version of Malwarebytes for a number of years and it has always worked well.
About 5 weeks ago I clicked on MB for a scan, the page had changed and was replaced by a page offering a 30 day trial on a paid for version. As I couldn't load the free version and there was a free trial on the paid for version I clicked and downloaded it and used the scan.
Next day when I booted my PC I couldn't get on the internet,the reason was a file was missing. After trying a number of repairs I decided to do a system restore and restored to a previous week.
I was then able to load the Internet, next day when I came boot up I had the same problem file missing so I restored again.After about a week of this, I wondered if MB had anything to do with my problem so I deleted the MB trial program and then a system restore and I have had no problems for 3 weeks. In conclusion the paid for MB program created a big problem for me. I have now reinstalled the free version and all is now OK

Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
02 Nov 2017

I installed MBAM-A about 2 weeks ago on my Motorola-built Google Nexus 6 phone. I'm about to remove it, because my phone is now quite laggy and slow to respond, and the battery life has gone to **** also.

Posted by:

Fred Harnish
02 Nov 2017

I've used MBAM free and premium on laptops, desktop, and smart phones with no issues. It has actually performed well on Samsung S5 and S8 models, and is currently installed on 2 desktop and 3 laptop computers. I've been pleased with the results. I run Norton Antivirus of my computers in conjunction with MBAM without issue. It has done a good job of finding and isolating problem software.

Posted by:

02 Nov 2017

At the Google Play Store, the price is $11.99 a year. That is all I paid in September, and I'm good for a year.

Posted by:

03 Nov 2017

A couple weeks ago I noticed I no longer had the MBAM "M" showing up in my notification bar on my android. Upon investigating, I found that though you can still get a free version, they have taken away "real-time" protection and offer only on the paid subscritption now.

I updated my installation, but refuse to pay for something I originally had for free. Especially at the rediculous price they're asking. I don't even pay that much for my desktop AV software as you can always find good deals for that at Fry's. Even if it's only around $12 in the Google Play store, I still paid less for a full AV program. And my android came with a free AV app. Got mixed reviews from users, but between it and MBAM and a little vigilence, I've kept my device free of problems for the 2 years I've owned it.

Posted by:

03 Nov 2017

I got rid of all Iobit software several years back. I got tired of deleting the PUPs their installation always seemed to infect my PC with, regularly.

Posted by:

03 Nov 2017

I've been using MBAM-A for several days ($11.99/yr)and was surprised to see some of the Privacy Audit results. Some apps to which I have set "no permissions granted" show as having access to contacts and phone number. Firefox and Evernote are among these.

Posted by:

03 Nov 2017

Your cell phone is "A CELL PHONE" it is NOT a substitute for a Solid Landline or Home Wifi connection combined with GOOD Encryption and ANTIVIRUS Protection!
I have been running my Private Computer Repair Business for 30 years now.B4 Windows ( I.E. a Graphic User Interface was available to the Public ).
Everyone that uses an Online Device should be Compelled to go through a Security Training Course, No Exceptions!
This " Cell Phone Craze " will not last too much longer. I don't know what our next craze will be but this ridiculous B******T cannot last!
Security FIRST and convenience LAST!

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