May 20, 2010

Not-So-Smart Smartphones: Common Cell Phone Slip-Ups

0-titleAccording to a recent wireless industry survey, 91% of all Americans carry a cell phone. That’s over 285 million mobile subscribers. And, while there’s no denying that the phones have gotten better and the technological advances make life easier, there are still plenty of things that can go wrong. Some of it’s due to simple user error, some of it is unavoidable, and some of it is the result of amazing stupidity. However, regardless of the cause, here are a few of the many common (and not so common) Smartphone slip-ups.


It’s Your Loss: Cell Phones Vanish in the Strangest Places

As of 2007, over 30% of cell phones were reported lost on an annual basis. If this stat holds true today—and, honestly, is there any reason to think people have gotten less careless?—that equates to approximately 85 million cell phones reported missing in the U.S. alone. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Americans aren’t the only ones being careless. A survey in the U.K. estimated that 810,000 phones are mistakenly left in pubs, 315,000 get abandoned in taxicabs, and 225,000 forgotten on the bus . And, to top it off, an impressive 58,500 handsets were clawed, mauled, or slobbered on by pet dogs. With stats like these it seems like just knowing where your phone is and keeping it functional is practically a full-time job.

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Don’t Flush That: How Do You Drop a Phone in the Toilet?

Losing a cell phone is kind of embarrassing, but dropping it in the toilet is way worse. It might seem a bit farfetched, but the threat is all too real. An astounding 885,000 people lose their phones to a watery (or worse) grave each year. Additionally, another 116,000 are done in by the spin cycle; accidentally tossing their phone in with the dirty laundry. On the upside, at least the ones in the laundry are coming out clean.

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Illogical Data Plans: Wait, Text Messages Aren’t Data?

With the vast majority of phones now offering varying degrees of internet connectivity, it’s not  just a matter of how many minutes you’re using, but also how much data. The majority of providers offer various plans ranging from the ludicrously priced pay per kilobyte (even just $0.01 / KB adds up quickly) to the seemingly fool proof“unlimited data” plans. Unfortunately, in a move that defies all logic, the data being transmitted through text messages is not considered part of most unlimited data plans. However, with Americans sending and receiving approximately 5 billion text messages per day, it’s not surprising that cell phone providers want to cut the data-usage pie in half and eat from both ends.

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Old Fashioned User Error: Your Phone is Smart, Maybe You Aren’t

With the cell phone’s capacity to do more and more constantly increasing, the amount of damage you can do when operating it has been boosted exponentially. Everyone’s already heard horror stories of drunken texts, sexting gone wrong (really, how can it not?) and compromising photos that end up being shared with the wrong people. Just because your phone allows you to do something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about whether it’s really a good idea first. Oh, and texting while driving, probably not the best idea.

Safe, But Still Not Fool Proof: Spyware, Malware, and More

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Although many cell phones operate on a closed system, smartphones can still be susceptible to spyware,viruses, and worms. With an increasing number of phones allowing easy access to workplace servers, various networks, and in some cases personal banking information, the incentive to install spyware is constantly rising. Because of the growing amount of sensitive data being stored on your phone, many cell phone providers are starting to recommend installing some type of third-party anti-virus software to help keep your phone protected.

Always Be Prepared: How to Protect Yourself if You Lose Your Phone

Despite your best efforts, there are still the occasional moments when you might make a mistake. After all, it’s not like most people leave their cell phone in a bar, taxi, or bus on purpose. So, in preparation for the possibility that you might eventually do something stupid, it’s a good idea to take the “better safe than sorry” approach and just prepare for the worst. Here are a few things you can do to eliminate headaches in the event you do happen to lose your cell phone.

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1) Back up your phone on a regular basis. After all, the hardware is replaceable, but photos, contacts, and any additional information you’re storing on there might not be.

2) Write down your phone’s serial number (it will also most likely be available in your online account info through your cell phone provider), this number will be extremely helpful should your phone be lost or stolen.

3) Think about installing some sort of anti-theft software or application that can be used from a computer once the phone has disappeared. There are several applications available that allow you to remotely access your phone, do last minute backups, wipe data, or set off a loud alarm that might help you find it, or at least scare anyone who is trying to steal it.

4) If you fancy yourself particularly careless—or just plain clumsy—it might be worth considering purchasing the insurance plan through your cell phone provider. Many providers offer plans that will allow you to replace your phone at a highly reduced cost if you happen to lose it or even accidentally break it. Just be certain to read the terms and conditions first to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.

Too Late, I Already Lost It: What to Do When Disaster Strikes

Losing your cell phone is a devastating feeling. You feel naked, hopeless, and so alone. You’re no longer connected to the world, and it’s hard to fathom where to even begin. Fortunately, there are a few quick solutions that will ensure you minimize any potential damage to your pocket book, even if your pride already took a bit of a beating.

1) Even if the phone is no longer in your possession, you are still responsible for any calls being made on that phone. The first thing you’ll want to do is contact your service provider and report the phone missing. There’s no point adding a $1,000 worth of long distance calls to the money you’ll already be shelling out for a replacement phone.

2) Once your service has been temporarily suspended, you typically have 30 days to reactivate it. This should be plenty of time to retrace your footsteps, hope for the best, and even if you can’t find it, ultimately just cave and go buy a new one.

3) If you perennially lose your phone, you should also consider installing an app that can help you find your phone if it is lost, by showing you where it is on a map. There are several free apps that can do this today so that the next time you lose your phone, you might actually be able to find it before resorting to the first two actions.

If you think your phone’s lost, it is probably safe to take the steps above. Bite the bullet and at least prevent yourself from footing the bill for someone’s out of country calls with long lost relatives. You’re not the only one to make a mistake, there’s another 84,999,999 people that are right there with you.

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May 18, 2010

Lookout Closes $11 Million in Funding Led by Accel Partners

We’re pleased to announce that Lookout has raised $11M in additional funding from Accel Partners as well as our existing investors, Khosla Ventures and Trilogy Partnership. With investments in companies like AdMob, GetJar and Facebook, Accel has incredible expertise that will help us make Lookout even better for you. Ping Li, Partner at Accel Partners will be joining our board and we’re thrilled to have him on the Lookout team.

accel_logoWe’ve had an incredible year, launching products for Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile and building an amazing base of users from around the world. You tell us everyday how much it means to have a safe mobile experience and how we protect you from the growing number of mobile threats. This funding will allow us to invest in the technology, talent and infrastructure to continue to provide the highest level of mobile security, whether that means protecting against malware and viruses, backing up and restoring your valuable data or finding a lost or stolen phone.

You can check out our press release below. Stay tuned as we have more exciting developments on the way. Thanks for all your support!


Lookout Closes $11 Million in Series B Funding Led by Accel Partners

Explosive Growth in Smartphone Market Underscores Need for Mobile Security

SAN FRANCISCO–May 18, 2010–Lookout, the leader in smartphone security, today announced an $11 Million Series B round of funding led by Accel Partners with Khosla Ventures and Trilogy Partnership also participating. The company also announced that it has added several new executives to its leadership team, including former CEO of Vontu and executive at Symantec, Joseph Ansanelli, as Chairman of the Board.

“The smartphone market is exploding, and consumers are downloading third-party apps by the hundreds, making security an increasingly vital component of the mobile market,” said Ping Li, Partner at Accel Partners, who will join the board. “Consumers need to know that their applications, their data, and their phone itself are protected. We are excited to work with Lookout as they continue to extend their lead in this dynamic market.”

The global smartphone market grew more than 50% during the past year and as a result, consumers have been introduced to thousands of third-party applications across leading mobile platforms through app stores and downloaded sites. The Android Marketplace alone gives consumers access to more than 50,000 applications. While they enjoy the benefits of these applications, consumers are often unaware of the risks that accompany their increased data and application usage. Similar to the PC market, as consumers do more with their phones, they need protection from threats such as mobile viruses and malware, data loss and theft of the phone itself.

Lookout has developed cross-platform, cloud-connected applications that immediately identify and block threats before they compromise a consumer’s mobile phone, backup and restore mobile content, find a lost or stolen phone and wipe data from a phone if necessary. Available now on more than 400 mobile networks in 170 countries, Lookout prevents thousands of malicious applications, finds countless lost phones and restores important information for users every month.

“We are thrilled to receive such enthusiastic support from Accel Partners,” said John Hering, CEO and founder of Lookout. “Their backing is recognition of Lookout’s accomplishments to date and a testament to the importance of this market. With this additional financing, we’ll continue to invest in new technology and infrastructure so that we can provide the most comprehensive smartphone protection available to millions of consumers worldwide.”

Lookout Executive Additions

Joseph Ansanelli brings his extensive knowledge of security to Lookout as Chairman of the Board. Prior to Lookout, he served as CEO and co-founder of Vontu, turning the company into the leading provider of data loss prevention solutions before being acquired by Symantec in 2007.

In addition to Ansanelli, Lookout has also added several key members to the company’s executive team including Eric Bothwell as vice president of engineering, who formerly held engineering leadership positions at Vontu and Symantec; Chris Jones as vice president of product management, formerly senior director of portfolio product management at Symantec; and Julie Herendeen as vice president of marketing, formerly vice president of network products and advertising solutions for Yahoo! Inc.

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May 12, 2010

Mobile Payments Taking Off: Mobile Security Tips to Stay Safe

Mobile Payments

For those of us on-the-go, mobile phones have already replaced a lot of other devices. It’s a computer, a camera, a music player, a GPS, a thermometer, a tape recorder, a calculator, a compass, an address book and a clock, just to name a few. Now the mobile phone is about to replace another essential tool in our daily lives: our credit card.

According to a recent article in The New York Times “a number of big and small companies — including eBay’s PayPal unit, Intuit, VeriFone and Square — are creating innovative ways for individuals to avoid cash and checks and settle all debts, public and private, using their cellphones.”

Now instead of throwing down multiple credit cards after a nice dinner, friends are bumping Blackberries to settle the bill. It’s very cool, but it does beg the question – what about security of these transactions? Physical credit cards are burdened by a tremendous amount of theft and fraud; however this theft and fraud is a well understood problem: banks have sophisticated fraud detection systems, fraudulent merchants lose their ability to accept credit cards, and people know to report lost or stolen cards immediately.

Mobile payments have an opportunity to be an efficient and convenient way to make purchases; however, we’ll need to learn lessons not only from physical payment cards and from PC-based payments, but we’ll also need to look at the unique security threats on mobile devices. With millions of transactions streaming across phones every day, mobile payments seem to be an obvious next target for criminal hackers trying to make money from stealing identities and emptying out unsuspecting bank accounts.

So, what’s the answer to securing mobile payments? While this is almost certainly a question that will only be answered as threats evolve, there are measures you can take to protect yourself now.

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May 5, 2010

Mobile Malware On the Rise

There are roughly 4.6 billion mobile phones in the world. Very few are protected from mobile malware or spyware, as there’s a common belief that no malware or spyware is being written for mobile platforms or that such platforms are somehow immune. That belief is false: not only is there malware or spyware for just about every smartphone platform, but we’ve also seen a significant increase in the prevalence of both occurring over the past few months. Mobile malware has existed for some time, but has mostly been isolated to Europe and Asia. Early mobile malware mostly affected Symbian and Java phones, typically relying on SMS, MMS, Bluetooth, or media cards in order to spread.

Today, smartphone usage is on a significant upswing. Because these devices have great web browsers, plenty of memory, and fast data connections, the growth of risky behavior—internet browsing, mobile banking, online shopping, email, and application downloading—has been explosive. This risky behavior is what provides both the incentive and the opportunity for attackers: there is something on your phone worth attacking and there’s a mechanism for the attack to occur.

US Smartphone Penetration Nielsen

Consider the suspicious mobile banking applications that were recently available in the Android Market. Because people are using their phones to access bank accounts, there is an incentive for attackers to strike and because people are downloading apps ten-at-a-time, there’s an opportunity for a non-reputable developer to put a malicious app in the market right next to Google Maps and Skype and attack a broad base of people.

Just like a PC, your phone is a powerful computing platform that can do many great things. Also like your PC, your phone has no built-in moral compass to decide what’s good or bad—it just follows instructions. With the increase in nefarious activity, you should take steps to protect your mobile phone experience: make sure you get your applications from a reputable download source, only download applications that are well known and well reviewed, and keep a password on your phone. Also, keep in mind that while we are seeing increased prevalence of mobile malware and spyware, it is still much more likely that your phone will be lost or stolen. Effective mobile security requires that you protect yourself on multiple fronts: the apps you download, your data, and your phone.

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