Lookout app cashes in on rising BYOD trend
LOOKOUT is busy tracking the cybercriminals and aggressive advertisers that target the 45 million people around the world who have downloaded the firm's free mobile-security app.
That is the first step towards a more lucrative goal: protecting the data of big corporate customers that are allowing employees to use their own mobile devices on corporate networks.
The so-called bring-your-own- device, or BYOD, trend can lead to trouble. Almost half of firms that allow personally owned devices to connect to the corporate network have experienced a data breach, either due to unwitting mistakes by staff or intentional wrongdoing, according to a 2012 survey of 400 technology professionals by Decisive Analytics.
With that risk in mind, Lookout is taking aim at firms and government agencies in much the same way attackers are: using its app to slip under the door of enterprises via the hundreds of millions of workers who regularly take their own devices to work.
Lookout is among a handful of tech companies trying to capitalise on the BYOD phenomenon that people in charge of securing corporate networks say has become their biggest headache.
In the past, they could mandate that employees use company-approved BlackBerry smartphones, which came with a tightly controlled network.
But with BlackBerry's future uncertain and consumers clamouring to use their iPhones, iPads and Android-powered devices at work, tech managers have had to consider alternatives and deal with the potential security threats that come with those alternatives.
Twice as many corporate employees use their own iPhones, iPads and Android devices at work than use corporate-approved devices, according to Osterman Research.
Most BYOD antidotes are geared towards mobile data management, such as segregating corporate data from personal data on employees' phones, and offering features that help them remotely wipe proprietary information if a device gets lost or stolen.
Lookout approaches the problem from a different direction - it uses a consumer app to increase the number of devices it can monitor. The Lookout app backs up data, tells users if other apps are siphoning their data, locates lost or stolen phones and even e-mails users a snapshot of the thief if he fails to guess their password.
Today, those tens of millions of devices act as global sensors, feeding all sorts of hairy threats back to Lookout's Mobile Threat Network, vast data set on a cloud of servers that tracks and analyses malicious activity and helps researchers anticipate criminals' next moves.
Last month, the company announced Lookout for Business, which is meant to help businesses manage and secure employees' mobile devices, whether or not they are company-issued.
The app will block malware, spyware and adware on those devices and give corporations, and its customers, a clearer window into a new breed of mobile threats.
There is little doubt that data-security managers are struggling to keep tabs on sensitive information as employees start importing data to their personal devices - inevitably losing them - and downloading mobile apps that have access to corporate assets.
Experts and threat researchers warn that these apps have little or no safeguards. Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2015, 75 per cent of mobile apps will fail basic security tests.
A Lookout threat report this year said a tiny but growing portion of its Android user base in the United States had unwittingly downloaded mobile Trojans. And 1.6 per cent have downloaded adware that pilfers their personal data without their knowledge.