Lookout Offers Smartphone Privacy Protection

Lookout Mobile Security will soon start selling a premium version of its smartphone security software that includes new privacy and backup and restore features.

Lookout's free software has already been downloaded by more than 3 million users. It offers antivirus protection and some basic data backup. The premium product comes with a few extras that Lookout thinks power users will be willing to pay for.

One of them is a privacy dashboard that scans mobile apps as they're being downloaded and offers users a central place to see which programs are accessing what types of data and messages. "Privacy is becoming a much bigger issue, especially in the world of mobile applications," said John Hering, Lookout's CEO.

Recently researchers at Kaspersky Lab discovered a handful of Trojan horse programs for the Android platform that sent expensive SMS messages without user consent. And just last week Google was forced to pull an Android application, called SMS Replicator, from its marketplace after the New York Times reported that the program was designed to secretly spy on mobile phone users.

Whether consumers are ready to pay US$2.99 a month -- the cost of Lookout Premium -- for privacy protection is another matter, however. Criminals still prefer to write malicious software for the Windows operating system, and consumers haven't yet accepted the idea of paying for security software on their phones.

Lookout's Hering says that as more and more applications show up with privacy problems -- even inadvertent issues -- more people will want to pay for his software. "Privacy protection is kind of our flagship feature," he said.

In addition to the privacy protection software, the premium product also gives users a way to backup and restore their photos and call history -- and to transfer this data to a new phone. It will be available first for Android users later this month, with Windows and BlackBerry versions shipping sometime after that. A yearly subscription costs $29.99.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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