Microsoft is launching a preview version of its antivirus software for Android today. Microsoft 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 go a step further than Google’s built-in malware protection to offer signature-based malware detection. “Scans are instantly performed 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.”
This new Android app will work like a classic mobile antivirus product that can scan the phone for malicious apps and other malware, detect malicious and phishing sites while the user is browsing the web, and block users from accessing certain sites based on a predefined block-list.
Microsoft says the Defender ATP for Android app also comes with hidden features, courtesy of its integration into the larger and more complex Defender ATP, Intune, and Configuration Manager platforms.
The app effectively works as a gatekeeper for a company’s network, allowing IT staff to lock Android smartphones out of the corporate network or prevent users from accessing corporate apps.
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.
Currently, Microsoft Defender ATP is only available for Windows, Mac and Linux devices. The Linux client exited its public preview and entered general availability earlier today.
Microsoft launched a Linux client in public preview in February, when it also announced future public previews for Android and iOS. While the Android app entered public preview today, Microsoft said the iOS public preview is still coming, but merely scheduled for “later this year.”
Additional information about the Microsoft Defender ATP for Android public preview is available in Microsoft’s official documentation page.