Paid app, cloud service secure consumer Android phones

Lookout Premium adds new features for greater privacy, remote lock, remote wipe, and enhances its cloud-based backup-and-restore capability.

Lookout Mobile Security has created a paid client application that makes use of the vendor's cloud-based service to secure Android smartphones. Lookout Premium adds new features for greater privacy, remote lock, remote wipe, and enhances its cloud-based backup-and-restore capability.

A brief history of Android

The idea is to create native security agents for, currently, BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile devices. The agents handle a range of local processing and other tasks, acting as extensions of Lookout Mobile's cloud services.

The agents scan a new downloadable app, searching for malware and spyware, and block the download from completing if they detect malicious software. Various kinds of data can be backed up to, and restored from, the Lookout cloud servers. And the service can locate a missing phone. In some cases, the agents may invoke features or services offered by the underlying mobile operating system.

Until now, the agents have all been free. Lookout introduced its Android client in June 2010.

Lookout Premium for Android is the first paid version of the security agent: $3 per month or $30 yearly, with a free 30-day trial. It can be downloaded from the online Android Market site or from the company's Web site.

The premium version adds several capabilities not found in the free product.

The new Privacy Advisor scans each app downloaded to the Android phone and creates a list showing what private data the new app can access, such as identity information, location, and messages. It also offers detailed reports on the downloaded app's capabilities. With this information, the user can decide whether to complete the installation or block it.

Lookout says smartphones have dozens of apps that access various types of privacy information, from location to SMS and MMS massages. But users tend to be unaware of exactly what apps are accessing what data.

With the Premium Remote Wipe and Remote Lock features, lost or stolen Android phones can be stripped of corporate data and disabled by the users.

Users can now backup and restore photos and call history, in addition to contacts (the only backup available for the free version); and transfer data to a new phone.

Finally, Premium customers have priority for customer service problems and questions.

The San Francisco company launched publicly last December funded by $16.5 million from venture backers.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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