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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lookout integrates 'safe browsing' on Android

Socially engineered threats remain a major security concern on mobile devices, so to help protect its users Lookout Mobile Security (download) has added "safe browsing" to its premium version today at no extra cost. Safe browsing checks links you tap before they load in your device's Web browser to make sure they don't lead to phishing scams or malware.

Safe browsing is not quite widely available yet on mobile devices, even though it potentially can threaten mobile device users as easily as it does people using laptops and desktops. In an interview last week at CNET's San Francisco office, Lookout's Chief Technology Officer Kevin Mahaffey discussed what he thinks are the next big mobile security problems. "The two things we saw coming were drive-by downloads and exploits on Web sites. Since almost all web browsing on mobile is done with Webkit, Webkit exploits will affect almost everybody," he said. Webkit is the underlying rendering engine that powers the default mobile browser on iOS, most of the mobile browsers including the default on Android, as well as Google Chrome and Apple Safari on the desktop.

Lookout's Safe Browsing shows up as a new option on its main screen. Tapping it only reveals a brief description about the feature because it's designed to be baked right into the main interface, said Anbu Anbalagapandian, a senior software engineer at Lookout. "As Steve Jobs says, it just works," she added.

When you click on a link from within any app, Lookout will detect your browser opening and then check where the link is going to before the page loads. If the Web site is safe, Lookout will show a message stating as much in the notifications window. You won't see it unless you pull down the notifications window immediately after tapping a link.

If a malicious link is detected, Safe Browsing asks you if you'd like to Block the site or Proceed Anyway. In brief testing, Lookout's Safe Browsing successfully blocked the browser from loading five known malicious sites.

To get the update, either install the app and upgrade to the premium version, or update your current installation of Lookout. It is also available during the app's trial period. While adding the feature to Lookout isn't going to change the face of mobile security, safe browsing is absolutely a smart feature to include in any mobile security app.


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