Lookout is adding a new function to its suite of products today by releasing a "safe browsing" feature to its Android application. Lookout is also partnering with Sprint to make access to the application easy through the Sprint Zone or Tab in the Android Market.Mobile security startup
The traditional problems that personal computers face in terms of security - malware, viruses, Trojans - that lead to compromised data and security problems are rapidly shifting to mobile devices. Data and identity villains will always go after the richest targets. Phones were not a not a rich target ... until they became smart.
Lookout's mobile security application has everything security experts have come to expect with a mobile security device: data backup, remote wipe and location service, malware protection and application scanning. These same functions can be found on other mobile security applications, like Symantec and AVG, Research In Motion or Good Technologies.
None of the other major mobile security services have added a safe browsing feature. It operates only within the default Android browser (not if you are using Opera or Firefox) and works just like it would from a PC browser: It will warn users that a site contains malicious malware (drive-by downloads and exploits) and will either block the site or give users the opportunity to push through to sites they know are OK.
"We want to solve problems so people can use their phones more confidently," said Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer of Lookout. "We want the function to take effect very gently. It will have gentle notifications without slowing down the phone."
No Patching, Look Towards Internal Security or Third Parties
Security on a mobile device is different than a PC. There is no "patch Tuesday" to shore things up. Patches are done rarely because they usually involve pushing a whole new version of the mobile OS out, either over the air or through a computer. The carriers, original equipment makers and OS providers (in this case, Google) can never seem to agree when or how this should happen, so updates stall. With security concerns, that is a problem. Hence, users need to be protected by third-parties. Yet, there are differences in smart devices and PCs that make the traditional approach to security more difficult.
Battery life and internal memory is mostly what is problematic in comparison with smartphones and PCs. An application that is always on, checking for security and warning you of possible dangers would be a drain the a phones core, hence both its battery and performance. Mahaffey claims that the Lookout application, with safe browsing, will not slow down a phone at all.
Lookout has nine million current users and claim that the company is adding about a million a month. It was the first security company to report on the DroidDream "rageagainstthecage" malware exploit that hit about 50 Android applications in March. Lookout Premium has been available since November 2010.
Safe browsing is only available through Lookout Premium. The application itself is free but certain functions are only available through the premium version, which costs $29.99 a year. Lookout (which has provided ReadWriteWeb with a sample of the product) has offered our readers $5 off a yearly subscription (note: does not work with the monthly service) until June 22. Use the code BESAFEIM when registering.