Does your Android need security software?

Whether or not Android devices should have antimalware software is a hotly debated topic among security professionals.

Some believe it's not necessary — the incidences of reported issues of smartphone or tablet attacks are relatively low — while others say problems are on the rise and it's simply not worth the risk.

The short answer is you don't "need" special security software on your Android phone in order to use it. But be aware there are some associated risks if you choose not to install any security software.

What are these risks, you ask?

Because the Android platform is based on the "open-source" Linux operating system, the Google Play store (formerly Android Market) doesn't have as rigorous a vetting process like you'd find with, say, Apple's "walled garden" approach at the App Store.

As a result, there have been a few instances of Android applications ("apps") that contain Trojan spyware or viruses. Some have infected the user's smartphone, impacting its performance, while others have secretly uploaded information from the smartphone without the user's consent.

In Google's defense, these rogue apps have been identified and removed and the developers banned from the store. What's more, Google has vowed to be more vigilant in protecting its growing user-base.

Even with Android security software — and there are a few options available these days that protect users from suspicious websites, texts and emails — you need to be aware what you're "okaying" during the installation process. There's no reason why a weather app needs access to your contacts.

Because mobile devices, such as smartphones, are becoming a critical tool for work and play, they're increasingly becoming a target by malicious types out to infect your device with dangerous email attachments, pray on gullible types with "phishing" and "smishing" attempts, or steal your personal identity for financial gain.

If you choose to go with a security suite for Android, some software can also help locate or wipe a missing smartphone and back-up your info to the cloud.

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