I have been interested in technology since I first saw a teacher programming an old ZX80 when I was about 9 years old. I remember sitting with my dad as he programmed his Commodore Amiga, the old PC’s in college that used the then massive 1.44mb floppy disk drives. Then taking my first PC apart to see how it worked.
Fast forward a few years and we are in the smartphone world. The phone in your pocket holds more computing power than all the now retired space shuttles put together and people are still writing programmes (now known as apps) in their living rooms, or learning how to write for a hobby.
There are those however whose talent surpasses many others. Their abilities help the rest of us in everyday life, to those of us in the “geek” world, these people can be looked upon with awe.
Ayan Mandal is one such person. Ayan is the Director of Product Management at Lookout, and I was lucky enough to have him talk to me about Lookout, what it does and just how many people benefit from it on a daily basis.
Lookout is a suite of security applications all rolled up into one neat package. Over 20 million users benefit from Lookout and the protection that it offers every day.
Lookout is a comprehensive set of tools designed to protect the user from all sort of threats. The app is broken down into 5 sections, the Security section, the Privacy advisor, Safe Browsing, Backup and Missing Device.
The security section of Lookout protects the user from malware, spyware and viruses. Upon installation and setup it performs an immediate background scan of your current installed apps. Once the initial scan is complete the app sits and monitors changes and scans on demand once a new app is installed. The user can set a schedule for how often and when a routine scan is performed and whether or not the file system is monitored. The definitions are downloaded automatically over the air and as soon as new definitions are added a scan is performed and the user is notified of the result. Unlike many other security apps, Lookout also scans and monitors side loaded applications. All scanning is completed in the background using minimal resources whilst the file system monitoring is completely non-invasive.
Privacy Advisor – Premium Feature
There has been a lot of comment about internet privacy. What information is disclosed, to whom and when? We all place a great deal of protection around our own personal privacy, why therefore should our smartphone privacy be any different?
The privacy advisor contained within Lookout is a tool designed to highlight what information your smartphone is disclosing through the applications that are currently installed.
There are certain apps that need or want to access personal information contained within your phone. For example, Swiftkey, if allowed will read your SMS messages in order to personalise your predictive keyboard. Google Maps will read your GPS information in order to pinpoint your location as will Facebook when geotagging a photograph taken on your camera.
The potential for abuse here is massive if the user is not aware or, like me, doesn’t always read what services are accessed when installing. A good example of this is shown below.
Why would a torch require GPS information? After all, it turns on your camera light on demand and turns it off again when requested!
So, privacy advisor scans the apps you have installed, checks what information they give out and warn you accordingly, giving you all the information you need to determine if you should uninstall the relevant app.
Again, all scanning is completed in the background using minimal resources and in a non-invasive manner. Subsequent installations are also checked and you are informed of the results.
Safe Browsing – Premium Feature
The world has many people that want to take what is yours. It’s sad but true. The same is unfortunately true of the
internet. An incredible 4 out of 10 people will at some time encounter a malicious link that will take them to an unscrupulous website where someone will somehow try to gain something from them.
Safe browsing aims to put these people out of business. Safe browsing monitors every site that you visit within your built in browser, from Facebook, email messages, text messages or QR codes then blocks phishing and malware sites automatically thus helping to prevent identity theft, fraud and lots more.
In times not too long ago, people used to write phone numbers, addresses and birthdays in a little book that stayed by the side of their old telephone that was attached to the wall by a wire. This telephone stayed insitu and couldn’t be taken anywhere due to this wire!
Times however have changed and the majority of us now have all of our contact information stored on our omnipresent smartphone. Names, addresses, birthdays, phone numbers, email addresses, pictures and a whole other plethora of information.
Lookout aims to protect the most vital of this information by backing it up to the Lookout servers in order to ensure its availability should you accidentally lose your data, either by losing your phone or by wiping.
All of your contact information is backed up, and can be viewed at any time from a browser and if you have the premium version your call history and photos can be backed up too.
All data is stored securely at and retrieved from Mylookout.com and is linked to your email address, regardless of physical device.
As with other parts of the app, backups can be performed on demand or at a specific time and day.
The final part of the Lookout app is Missing device. In a survey completed by Lookout it was discovered that smartphones worth an astonishing £19 billion could be lost or stolen in the US this year alone.
Lookout aims to reduce this cost by helping to locate your lost or stolen phone on a map and then sounding a loud alarm on demand to announce its whereabouts. This is all controlled via the My Lookout website which can be accessed from any internet browser, either on another phone or a PC.
Lookout can track your handset via GPS or a text message that can only be read by the Lookout app. Once located you can send a tweet or update your Facebook so that any friends in the vicinity of your handset can assist you in getting it back.
If you are unfortunate enough to lose your phone and you have the premium version of Lookout, you can also lock your device and perform a remote wipe if it cannot be recovered. All of these features are controlled via the My Lookout website.
So, does it all work?
Personally, I don’t have access to any android viruses or malware and therefore am having to rely upon the test results of those that do! What I can say is that in recent tests undertaken by www.av-test.org Lookout detected over 90% of viruses and malware thrown at it. This detection rate is extraordinarily high for any product currently on the market.
The privacy advisor picked up on the one rogue app (torch) that I had installed, the phone backup feature works perfectly with my contacts and calls. The Missing device is the killer feature for me, it pinpointed my device within 30 seconds, getting its location bang on. The siren that sounds is ear piercing and can only be stopped by interacting with the handset. The lock function worked without a hitch and the wipe function successfully managed to delete my personal data at least twice when requested.
The My Lookout website is simple and self-explanatory with all the detail that anyone could possibly need.
With planned developments including greater website functionality and possible developments including Chrome becoming covered by safe browsing, Lookout is certainly to be trusted with your mobile security and I have no hesitations in recommending it to any Android or iOS user.
Special thanks go to Ayan Mandal from Lookout Mobile Security and Cristina and Sohaib from Nelson Bostock Communications.