Microsoft is launching a preview version of its antivirus software for Android today. The software giant revealed that Windows Defender was making its way to both iOS and Android earlier this year, but didn’t fully detail what to expect. We’re now getting a good idea of exactly why Microsoft thinks Android needs antivirus protection.
The public preview for Android will include protection against phishing and promises to go a step further than Google’s built-in malware protection with “additional visibility and controls” and its own signature-based malware detection. “Scans are instantly performed [to] detect malware and potentially unwanted applications (PUA),” explains Kanishka Srivastava, a senior program manager at Microsoft. “If a safe app is downloaded, the end user will see a lightweight notification letting them know the app is clean.”
Microsoft’s web protections will include anti-phishing so that unsafe websites sent via SMS, WhatsApp, email, or other apps are instantly blocked. Microsoft is also using its Defender SmartScreen technology to also block unsafe network connections that malicious apps might try to create without a user’s knowledge.
The Android preview app arrives more than a year after Microsoft started a public preview for its Defender antivirus on macOS. Microsoft renamed Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) to Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) as a result, and the Mac client also provides full virus and threat protection mixed with the ability to perform quick or full scans.
Microsoft is also planning an iOS antivirus app, although it’s clear the company will be far more limited with what it provides on Apple’s operating systems. Apple sandboxes iOS apps by default and prevents most end users from sideloading apps without the App Store in the first place. It’s still not clear what the iOS version of Microsoft Defender will offer, exactly.
“In the coming months we will be releasing additional capabilities on Android and you will hear more from us about our investments in mobile threat defense for iOS devices as well,” explains Rob Lefferts, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365 security.
Microsoft is also making Defender ATP generally available on Linux today, allowing the company to offer a unified antivirus solution across desktop and server platforms like Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Update, June 24th 2:30PM ET: Article updated to clarify Microsoft’s additional Defender features.