RND Labs, a South African startup specializing in mobile technology and Software-as-a-Service solutions, has developed an app it calls the "Anti-Virus for Airtime." Named Guardian, the app is said to be able to protect users against apps that steal their mobile airtime.

Demo screenshot of the Guardian app.

The app is currently only available for Android mobile devices with no indication when it will be available for Apple devices. It's also important to note that it only works for South Africa's three major mobile services providers, namely MTN, Vodacom, and Cell C.

“We hope Guardian will emerge as the leading locally-developed Android app aimed at protecting mobile users from inadvertently downloaded malware. Airtime is a de facto currency today and its theft has a real adverse financial impact on millions of people. This is the only locally-developed anti-malware app that notifies the user of potential threats in real-time while offering the fastest way to neutralise them,” said Laurence Seberini, Director at RND Labs.

Disappearing airtime in South Africa

Disappearing airtime or data bundles has been a persistent issue over the years with telecommunications companies most of the time claiming they are doing nothing wrong. However, in some proven cases, it has been the mobile services providers who were responsible for "stealing" customers airtime and data bundles.

“The growing challenge of malware and ransomware inadvertently downloaded from app stores by unsuspecting mobile users requires effective responses from the local mobile content and applications industry. We believe Guardian is a great example of what can be achieved by local development talent in the face of virtual threats,” said Seberini.

Although the Guardian app claims to be able to protect against apps stealing airtime, the question is can it protect against mobile services providers in South Africa doing the same.

According to RND Labs, the Guardian app protects customers from malware or suspicious activity that may result in unauthorised subscription services that use their airtime and data bundles. It doesn't, however, protect against the mobile networks "stealing" your airtime and data.

The Guardian app is currently available for free on the Google Play Store to the first 1,000 users. Thereafter, users can try it out for a 30 day free trial after which a R9.99 monthly subscription fee is applicable.


Cover image credit: Timi David Fregene/Unsplash