Android Apps

Lookout adds browser protection to fight malware and phishing scams on Android phones

June 15, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka

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The Android virus train keeps trudging along, and several companies have released apps designed to protect users from malicious attacks. But most of those efforts are focused on blocking Android apps that contain trojans. There’s nothing to protect users from malicious websites and phishing scams. Well, at least there wasn’t until this morning.

Lookout Mobile Security has just released Safe Browsing, a new feature that protects users against malicious websites. Lookout crawls the web in search of compromised, impostor, or nefarious sites, and maintains a database that mobile users can access instantly. When someone clicks on a link to one of these malicious websites, or a website known to launch phishing scams, Lookout warns the user about the risk and gives the option to accept or not load the page.

Imagine if your search for HSBC bank led you to a website masquerading as the bank website and trying to get you to enter your username and password. Safe Browsing would recognize that and jump in to protect you. On the desktop, users can protect themselves against phishing and malware-spreading websites using common safeguards. But there is less awareness and protection on mobile devices.

“People are trained what to look for in their browsers, but on mobile devices… it’s much harder to identify phishing links,” Lookout CTO Kevin Mahaffey told me in a briefing about phishing attacks in May. “If you get an email or text message on your phone, some people tend to respond to it right away without really thinking about it. Safe Browsing gets in the way of that.”

Lookout gave me a demo of Safe Browsing last month to show how easy it can be to be compromised. A user can click a link promising to block spyware, and that link may be masked to look like its from a trusted company. But instead of the person clicking on the link and unwittingly installing an Android Trojan or surrendering personal information, Lookout intercepts it. Lookout is able to analyze links in “a matter of milliseconds,” so there’s no noticeable delay in browsing time.

Safe Browsing protects Lookout Premium users in email, SMS, Facebook, and other Android apps that can launch links. From today until June 22, 2011, users can enter “BESAFEAN” when signing-up for Lookout Premium to get $5 off. Considering the amount of computing that people do on mobile devices and the resulting increase in malware attacks because, it may be worth it sign-up. Download Lookout from the Android Market.