As threats to mobile devices sharply increase, a good security app can make a huge difference. McAfee Mobile Security, the mobile version of McAfee’s desktop software, can help protect your phone or tablet from mobile malware, phishing, and device theft. McAfee provides a free seven-day trial, but requires a $30 yearly subscription if you decide to keep using the service once thereafter.
Once you’ve installed the app, McAfee Mobile Security will prompt to verify your mobile number and set up a six-digit PIN the first time you run it. After you complete those steps, the main app screen will list shortcuts to each component: Security Scan, App Protection, Call & SMS Filter, Backup, Restore & Wipe, Lock Device, and Web Protection. The entire app is password-protected with your chosen PIN, and you can set the app so that the user can’t uninstall it without first entering your PIN.
Security Scan lets you run on-demand malware scans of your apps and device. The antivirus protection also automatically scans installed apps, code from text messages, attachments, and files. App Protection searches for apps that have access to your sensitive data or device functions, and organizes them for you to investigate further; you can then set McAfee to remove suspect apps. McAfee also monitors other apps you install, alerting you to possible privacy issues. Web Protection blocks malicious websites in the Android browser, and it warns you when you receive dubious email or text messages.
You can initiate the app’s remote location and antitheft functions from your account on its website or via SMS commands that you send from another phone. You can view your device’s location on a map and set off its alarm so you can track the device by sound when it’s nearby. You can also lock your lost phone or tablet with a custom message that will prevent someone from using it and yet inform the person about how to return it. You can also wipe your contacts, call logs, text messages, photos, videos, and SD Card if you determine that you won’t be able to get your device back.
McAfee Mobile Security’s backup feature saves your contacts, text messages, call logs, photos, and videos to McAfee’s servers. You can view all of your backups via your account on McAfee’s website, and you can reload the messages and contacts from there back onto your device (if you’ve had to wipe it).
The Call & SMS Filter allows you to block communication with all or select numbers on phones. You can also block all anonymous callers and text messages that contain keywords you specify. McAfee Mobile Security maintains a log that lists all blocked communications.
McAfee Mobile Security also offers SIM card tracking. The app can send out a text message alert when the person in possession of your phone changes the SIM card (thieves often replace the SIM card on a stolen phone so that they can use their mobile number on the handset. You can also always view the device’s assigned number via your account on the McAfee website. And you can view device information, such as the device IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, in case you want to report it to your service provider or to third-party theft databases as stolen.
Both the app and McAfee’s Web interface are user-friendly and easy to navigate. My one gripe involves the awkward six-digit PIN that McAfee required me to use. Password-protecting the app is smart, but a four-digit PIN is much more common and a lot easier to remember. Moreover, for phones, McAfee requires you to use your mobile number as the username to access the Web interface, and you have to remember to include your country code (1 for the United States). This requirement doesn’t apply to tablets, however–on them, you use your email address as your username.
Overall, McAfee Mobile Security does a good job of protecting Android devices against malware and theft. Nevertheless, its steep price makes it hard to recommend. In contrast, Avast Mobile Security is totally free and contains more antitheft features. AVG Anti-Virus Pro provides very similar protection to what McAfee Mobile Security offers, and you can get it for a one-time payment of $10–much cheaper than the $30 per year that McAfee charges.