What's the best mobile anti-virus app?

Don't let your mobile device be taken down by a nasty bug!
Don't let your mobile device be taken down by a nasty bug!

Where computers go, viruses follow. It isn't much of a surprise that the mobile technology revolution has spawned a subculture of viruses designed to cause malicious mischief in mobile tools and toys. A cell phone virus can function in much of the same ways as a conventional computer virus, installing harmful files on your phone. The popularity of proprietary operating systems has somewhat controlled the spread of mobile targeted viruses and other malware because viruses need to be designed to attack specific operating platforms, but that doesn't mean you're safe without protection.

Viruses can attack mobile devices in a number of ways: Often they're hidden in e-mail attachments like photos or games. When you install and open the attachment, you infect your phone. Bluetooth devices are another good vehicle for infection. The effortless two-way communication that makes Bluetooth technology so darned convenient also makes it easy for an infected Bluetooth enabled phone to connect to any other Bluetooth devices within range. Once connected, it can trick the user into downloading the virus onto a clean phone. Surfing suspicious sites can net you an infection, too.

Before you get too engrossed in the fun features of your mobile device, make sure your equipment and private information is protected. When it comes to being secure on the road, the options come in a few different flavors. From anti-virus apps that can locate your lost or stolen phone to full-featured apps that also encrypt your folders and files, the best mobile anti-virus is the one that suits your unique needs. You can find comprehensive protection for free, or pay a little for some nice extras.

Most anti-virus software is equipment specific, matched to the operating system built into the phone. Mobile devices require compatible anti-virus protection. Open-source operating systems like Google's Android or Microsoft's Windows Mobile may offer more potential anti-virus products but still lock you out of some applications whose names you may recognize or whose products you've used before.

On the next page, we'll break down how to choose a mobile anti-virus app, as well as give you some specifics about the various options on the market.