Lookout for mobile security

Opinion by Dan Raywood

This week I met with a new mobile security start-up, which was making the first efforts to break into the European market.

This week I met with a new mobile security start-up, which was making the first efforts to break into the European market.

Established four years ago in San Francisco, Lookout offers a consumer mobile security product with application and link scanning, device discovery and back-up functions.

CTO Kevin Mahaffey said internet security is too often sold on fear, uncertainty and doubt, and this leaves customers frustrated as they often choose a product based on necessity, rather than because they like it.

He said: “People care about their phones, so we launched security software that aims to solve all security problems on a phone. You should have this on there because it makes you happy, not because you are scared.

“Our mission is that we want to solve problems rather than putting anti-virus everywhere. We have to solve real problems that benefit people, and security companies don't always do that.”

The solution, also called Lookout, runs a scan when it is downloaded to look for malware and spyware on the device in three to five minutes. Among its features are a privacy advisor so users are aware of what applications are accessing data; Mahaffey said this feature will tell the user which applications require location data.

Also included is a layer of security to the browser so any URL is scanned, while the back-up solution allows contacts, photos and call history to be stored on a server.

Mahaffey said that one of the most popular functions among users was the ‘missing device' option that will show where a lost device is on a map, and can play a siren upon instruction.

“Our goal is to give people peace of mind with their phone and not make them worry. We do not believe in being annoying, we want to help people use their phone,” he said.

Lookout is powered by the company's mobile threat network, which analyses threat data worldwide, identifying and blocking new threats and automatically delivering the appropriate protection.

Mahaffey said that while Lookout was founded to provide a consumer solution, it has been deployed by 50 per cent of the Fortune 500 in 170 countries. The launch this week added the capability to buy the premium edition in sterling, and Canadian and Australian dollars.

On the threat to mobile operating systems, he said: “I hate to say a year, month or date for when it will happen, but malware has been successful with the desktop and its economic drivers are the cost of infection and how it makes money. There are two levels for infiltration: one is botnets; the other is carrier-specific malware. I believe it will change, but it is all about economics at this point.”

You may deem that a consumer application on a personal device is not in the interest or for the benefit of the organisation, but if it is a security application, that makes things different. After all, is there such a thing as negative security?   


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