Thursday, 1 December 2011
Security app updates: Wifi Protector, DroidWall, Lookout
WiFiKill is a tool that turns Android phones into rogue access points. The first version could break internet connections of all devices connected to the same router. An update allows attackers to redirect their victims to any IP address of their choice. This makes it possible to spy on you, steal your passwords, and more. And there are other apps that do the same evil things.
Wifi Protector detects rogue access points, and if your phone is rooted it can protect you against their evilness. Like all security apps Wifi Protector is not 100% waterproof, but the latest update does a better job than the previous versions.
Wifi Protector costs a euro if you get it from the Android Market, but it's free if you download it from the xda forum. You can't use the Android Market to update the free version, so you'll need to get the new APK from xda and install it over the old copy.
• more about Wifi Protector (android underground)
• Wifi Protector (xda forum, free, download link at the bottom of the opening post)
• Wifi Protector (gurkedev, not free)
Many Android apps demand full internet access to collect usage stats and other info, to show ads from banner farms that track your location and online behaviour, and to do other things that you may not want them to do.
DroidWall is an outgoing firewall for Android that lets you revoke the internet permission that you didn't want to hand out to begin with. You can tell apps not to use WiFi, to stay away from cellular data, or both. The latest version added a bit of eye candy (application icons in the app list) and lists new apps on top of the list so you don't have to scroll all over the place to keep your freshly installed apps offline. There's a price to pay, though. Although the changelog promises that the app list doesn't reload when it doesn't need to, I often have to wait a long time before my list of apps loads since the update. Maybe the app icons or moving new apps to the top slow things down more than expected?
Update: the latest version loads the icons in a background process, so you can edit your app list before the icons are done loading.
DroidWall has one major flaw: when you boot your phone blocked apps may start before DroidWall does, so there's a brief period in which DroidWall can be leaky. It's probably due to the way Android is set up, but it's annoying anyway.
• DroidWall (Google code)
• DroidWall (Android Market)
Update: DroidWall out, AFWall+ in. Unlike DroidWall, AFWall+ doesn't leak when you boot your phone.
Whether Android antivirus apps are useful or useless is a topic of hot debate. Some people argue that bad apps are kicked out of the Android Market before the antivirus apps learn how to detect them. On the other hand, you can't exclude the possibility that an antivirus app updates its virus database before Google cleans up its shop. If you install apps from other sources an antivirus app will definitely add a much needed extra layer of protection.
Just keep in mind that no antivirus app catches everything. Lookout, the most popular free antivirus app for Android, is no exception. It's good at catching test viruses, but you never know how long a real virus manages to escape detection in the wild.
But even though you shouldn't rely too much on virus scanners, there are other reasons to get a copy of Lookout. The free version can back up your contacts, so you can keep an extra copy in addition to your Google backup. If your phone goes missing, Lookout can locate it and make it scream. The latest update fixes some bugs, but the makers of Lookout didn't say which bugs.
• Lookout (Android Market)