Lookout Takes Mobile Security To Businesses

Moving beyond the consumer mobile security market, Lookout aims to help companies secure employees' personal devices.

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Lost Smartphone? 6 Free Tracking Apps
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Lookout, a mobile security provider, on Tuesday made a bid to enter the enterprise market with software and services designed to appeal both to individual users and businesses.

The needs of employees and IT administrators aren't easy to align. The former just want to do what they want to do with their devices, without a corporate nanny looking on, while the latter fret about legal compliance issues, liability, corporate data loss, and all manner of other risks, real and imagined.

But some degree of reconciliation between these two positions is necessary in businesses that allow or encourage employees to bring their own devices into the workplace.

Jenny Roy, VP of product management at Lookout, explained in a phone interview that Lookout's mobile security offering began as a consumer product but has been adapted to help businesses. Lookout for Business aims to provide IT managers with the required controls, through a unified management dashboard, without interfering with expected functionality.

[ Do you understand mobile security threats? Read Mobile App Security: 5 Frequent Woes Persist. ]

Often, said Roy, security software comes with a cost. "The big difference is that the employees themselves get a lot of value out of the product," she said. "We really think we've bridged the best of both worlds."

The company's strategy appears to be pushing popular mobile phone features beyond the basic implementation. Phone location services offer an example. While Apple, Google, and Samsung all provide phone location software, Lookout has added capabilities like Signal Flare and Cam Lock.

Signal Flare automatically emails the phone owner when the battery is low, to preserve the device's last known location in the event battery power drains completely. Lock Cam takes a picture when someone fails to enter the correct passcode or pattern five times and then emails the image and the phone's location to the owner's email account.

Such enhancements improve the chances of finding a lost or stolen phone, making it appealing both to employees eager to protect a personal device and to employers concerned about corporate data on the device.

Also, Lookout's bid to win business customers required mass market acceptance first: The data the company relies on to weed out malicious apps comes from its installed base of over 45 million users.

If a report that Lookout itself commissioned from research consultancy Forrester can be believed, security is in short supply when it comes to employee-supplied mobile devices. The report finds that while 90% of companies permit BYOD (bring your own device) in the workplace, only half require participation in a security program.

Another finding: some 60% of IT admins reported a lost or stolen smartphone in the last year.

Perhaps Lookout can help those bringing their own devices into the workplace from bringing risk with them.

Consumerization 1.0 was "we don't need IT." Today we need IT to bridge the gap between consumer and business tech. Also in the Consumerization 2.0 issue of InformationWeek: Stop worrying about the role of the CIO. (Free registration required.)