Whilst discussing computer viruses, Stephen Hawking is quoted to have said, “I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive.”
The man had a good point. Any man-made medium is open to exploitation and as such users of that medium are also fair game.
Nowadays, the broader term “Malware” pretty much covers all the nasty things which can infect and affect your computer. Smartphones, becoming ever more powerful and now used by millions of people, are often ignored when it comes to protection from Malware. I think this is down to the traditional mindset of mobile phones being at a very low risk of infection and how, despite the awesome power of today’s smartphones, we still feel safe inside that protective bubble.
Today we’ll get a glimpse of Lookout, a commendable application for protecting your phone.
Android is an OS really open to exploitation. It’s much easier to develop Malware and even easier to get it out into the open via third-party markets and file sharing. Securing a device is something I’d recommended to anyone who goes beyond the day-to-day phone calls and texting.
Lookout does a fantastic job of protecting your phone from these threats which could come in any form. I use my phone for Internet banking, shopping, checking up on my PayPal and a host of other security-sensitive tasks and have tried numerous security apps, none of which impressed me as much as Lookout.
It’s extraordinarily easy to use, minimalistic as you can see above, and doesn’t get in the way (something I wish could be said for PC security programs). It can also help you find your phone should you lose it, back up data (like contacts), and render the device useless if it can’t be found, to further protect you.
As I referred to above, the complexity and the way in which PC security programs get in the way all the time really bugs me. Lookout does a meritable job at making security a quick and painless task. It also only speaks when spoken to.
The main function is to fend off bad programs and viruses. For this the program scans your phone and all incoming apps for Malware which could affect your phone and compromise your security.
I ran a scan the minute I downloaded the app and it took less than two minutes. When the app discovers anything out of the ordinary it’s brought to your attention and you can decide what to do with it (either ignore it or get rid of the program that caused the alert). It works the same as the security suite on your computer.
The next feature (which is only available in the premium version) is the ‘Privacy Advisor’. Instead of searching for malicious software, it analyses the applications on your phone and tells you how they might be compromising your security.
This includes listing which of your apps can track your location, transmit your location, access your messages, and see who you’re in contact with.
The vast majority of the time these apps will be innocent in their dealings. However, it is nice to know their capabilities, and if something strikes you as odd (say for example, a calculator app tracking your location), uninstalling it is often a good idea.
Backing up valuable data into an online account is another ability of Lookout. This includes contact information and call history. That way, replacing a lost phone doesn’t involve the nightmare of gathering phone numbers and email addresses all over again.
Lookout functions brilliantly and is very easy to use. All of the tasks listed above take just two taps on the screen and need a mere minute or two to complete.
LookOut Finds Your Phone
It’s a disaster moment most of us have been through once before, if not multiple times. Your hand reaches into your pocket for your phone and suddenly it’s not there. Frisking yourself doesn’t turn up any results and before you know it you’re running around like a headless chicken, trying to retrace your steps.
Lookout however has to two cool features which help you find your phone when it’s lost. For obvious reasons they’re accessible via the Lookout online profile.
Firstly, scream sends a command to your phone which makes it vibrate and emit a load siren-type noise in the hope you can follow the noise to your phone. Once it’s found the siren can be stopped by pressing the on-screen ‘Stop Screaming’ button as seen above. This would come in handy for those of us who regularly misplace our phones around the house and can’t simply ring them as they’re in ‘silent’ mode.
The second feature enables your phone’s GPS and transmits its exact location to you and displays it on a map. That way, if your phone’s in a public place you can head right to the area, thus increasing the chances of finding it.
Finally, (and these are both premium features) if all your efforts fail it’s time to go instigate Plan ‘Z’. That is to remotely erase your phone of all data and, should you so wish, render it useless to anyone who finds it.
These features are activated from the MyLookout online web application. Wiping your device will also render the Lookout App useless and as such you won’t be able to pinpoint your phone’s location. Locking your device will send a message to the phone and prompt a PIN (which you select online) to be entered each time an attempt is made to use the phone.
Both of these features are for worst case scenarios but are great to have if only for peace of mind.
The only downside of all these functions (although rather understandable) is that your phone needs to be connected to the Internet when lost in order for it to receive and transmit this information.
Design and Layout
I think it’s important that security applications look the part. Imagine seeing a cop walking down the street wearing an un-tucked shirt, loose tie, and white tennis shoes. Doesn’t exactly scream “heroic savior,” does it?
Lookout is simplistic yet professional with all the functions displayed nicely on the homescreen as you can see in the above screenshots. The graphics are nicely done (such as the ‘scanning’ animation) and work well with the application.
The only real menu worth mentioning is the Scan Schedule that you can see above. This allows you to set how often you’d like the device to scan and at which time. As you can see I have mine set to scan every Tuesday in the early hours of the morning when my phone isn’t likely to be in use.
There is also a constant Lookout notification in the status bar which tells you the state of your device – the preferred being the ever-so reassuring ‘Everything is OK’.
Overall, Lookout is a great app for those wanting to boost their mobile security. The developers really have taken the user into account along with the technical requirements by allowing us to find, block, and erase our phone remotely.
The ‘Privacy Advisor’ is a real eye opener and one I’m glad I discovered. Most of us download applications without a second thought to the terms and conditions we so willingly accept. My discovery of three suspicious applications which could find my location and access my email for seemingly no reason whatsoever was disconcerting, but hey, knowledge is power.
I would only recommend the Premium version for those who carry very sensitive information on their phones and need the couple extra features it supplies. It costs $2.99 per month or $29.99 per year.
Lookout gets the job done and doesn’t interfere with the running of your phone. With the growing prominence of adware, spyware, viruses, and trojans on Android, I strongly recommend this app for everyone!