BullGuard Mobile Security 10 Review: Solid Mobile Antivirus with Parental Controls
BullGuard offers a mobile antivirus and security app for Android, Symbian, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry devices, called BullGuard Mobile Security. For $29.95 per year, it protects you and your mobile device from viruses, spyware, identity theft, and online fraud. The app also offers antitheft, parental controls, and data backup--all of which can be accessed via BullGuard's web-based control panel (that it calls the Mobile Security Manager).
For this review I installed BullGuard Mobile Security 10 on an Android smartphone. Setting up the app is easy: You just enter your license key, email address, and create a password for use on BullGuard's online control panel. Once you've set the app up, it will automatically begin updating its virus definitions and take you to the main screen.
The app's main screen is very simple and straight-forward. Here, you can view the app's main three components (Antivirus, Parental Control, and Basic Backup), and clicking on one of these components will give you access to their features and settings. The main screen is certainly simple enough, but it would be nice if you could tap their checkboxes (at least for the Antivirus and Basic Backup) to quickly turn the features on or off.
From the Antivirus screen you can initiate a scan of your device and also manually update the app's virus definitions to the most current version. When performing a virus scan, you can choose whether to scan the entire phone or just individual folders and files. You can also view a scan log and a list of any detected threats.
When I performed a full device scan it took long time compared to most other mobile antivirus apps I’ve reviewed, but BullGuard scans all files and not just the installed apps like some other antivirus apps do. It took about 25 minutes to scan 3,813 files and 58 apps, adding up to about 2GB of data. Once you initiate the scan you can still use your phone and view the scan status via the Android notification menu.
On the Parental Controls screen you can view the current parental controls in place, but if you want to make any changes to them you'll have to do so through the web-based control panel. There you can enable SMS, MMS, and voice monitoring so you can view and search through the history of SMS and MMS messages (including the actual text or pictures) and the log of ingoing and outgoing voice calls. You can enable image monitoring to capture and log any images taken by the phone’s camera and any images downloaded from the web. You can even enable GPS update so you can track and see the phone’s location on a map. If you're using the web-based control panel, you can also view a list of installed apps and remotely uninstall those you wish to remove.
One of the more useful Parental Control features is the ability to alert you if certain words or phrases are used in text messages or emails. From the online control panel you can set which words or phrases you'd like to monitor for, and the service will notify you via email if your chosen words or phrases are detected. Perfect for making sure your kids (or employees) aren't saying things that they shouldn't.
I didn't encounter any major issues while testing the Parental Controls, but I do wish there was a way to view a separate log of emails like you can with the SMS and MMS messages.
On the Basic Backup screen you can enable or disable the backup of your contacts and calendars. You can manually backup within the app or via the web-based control panel, but there’s no auto backup feature. There’s also no restore option within the app, but you can initiate restorations via the web-based control panel as well. When I performed a backup of both my contacts and calendar it took about 12 seconds--pretty quick.
BullGuard's antitheft functionality can only be activated from the online control panel. You can locate your device on a map via GPS, remotely lock it so others can’t use it or change its settings, and make it scream so you can find it when you’re in the general area. You’ll also find settings to enable automatic device locking and or wiping if someone changes your SIM card.
When testing the remote antitheft features I didn’t find any major issues. The map wasn't able to get my exact location, but it was only off by a slight amount. The remote lock did work as advertised, and the scream function worked even when the phone was on silent.
Overall, BullGuard Mobile Security 10 and the web-based interface were easy to use. Though there’s a yearly subscription required, it includes some neat features free and even other paid apps usually don’t include--like the remote monitoring, parental controls, and support for a wide variety of mobile platforms if you or your family aren't all on Android. However, I think the app lacks some key functionality--such as the ability to initiate and schedule backups within the app--that would really help in selling people on BullGuard's hefty price tag.
Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer. He’s also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, which provides a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service for businesses, and On Spot Techs, which provides on-site computer services.