Lookout app opens a window onto mobile threats

Curious about mobile malware? The new Lookout Threat Tracker shares a peek at the global mobile threatscape.

Threat Tracker's information screen shows some interesting facts about mobile security threats.

(Credit: Lookout Mobile Security)

Lookout Mobile Security's latest project app peels away some of the secrecy and uncertainty surrounding mobile threats. Debuting today, the Threat Tracker provides information about mobile threats going back two weeks.

The app is meant to help people understand that mobile threats do exist, explained Derek Halliday, senior product manager for Security at Lookout. "We're showing people what they're being protected against," he said. It was originally created by a Lookout summer intern in 2011.

Here's how it works. Tap the home screen that opens when the app launches, and the app jumps to a spinning blue globe of Earth. It populates the globe with green dots, representing people around the world that Lookout says it has protected from threats. You can drag the globe around to see how different parts of the world are affected.

Below the globe is a timeline chart of mobile malware threats over the past two weeks. It gets updated hourly, and you can slide your finger along it to change the map of blocked threats above. At the top of the app are three links. The one in the upper left corner goes to the Lookout Mobile Security listing in the Android Market, while the question mark explains the app's features.

The i in the upper right corner shrinks the globe and pulls up more information on threats. A slider shows the percentage of spyware versus malware (41 percent to 59 percent, as I write this on Monday) and below that are the top three threats over the past two weeks. Tap one to get an explanation of what the threat is and what it does.

At the time of writing, the top two mobile threats according to Lookout are RuPaidMarket, Depositmobi, and Legacy. The first two send premium SMS without permission, a growing threat on smartphones of all kinds. Legacy contains a Trojan that exploits a vulnerability on some Androids to gain control of the device.

The app is a bit thin on features. For example, it doesn't tell you the countries where the top threats lurk. They're currently bigger problems in Eastern Europe than in the United States. Halliday admitted that it doesn't do much now, but said that more of Lookout's security data would be revealed in future updates to the app.

Lookout Threat Tracker isn't going to make you more secure in and of itself, but it ought to help end questions about whether mobile malware exists and what threats mobile malware can pose to people. Halliday concluded, "This is a way to answer those questions without having to experience the malware yourself."

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