Lookout's Safe Browsing Tool Scans Android Devices for Malicious Websites

Safe Browsing from Lookout Mobile Security scans every Website before it loads on the Android Web browser. The tool tries to detect phishing sites to warn users before they hand over personal information. The scan is surprisingly quiet and quick.

Lookout Mobile Security added a new tool called Safe Browsing to its Lookout service to protect users from Websites that can attack their Android phones.

Safe Browsing checks every Website the user tries to access before it loads to prevent Websites from downloading malware onto the device, Lookout said June 15. It also tries to detect phishing sites to warn users before they hand over sensitive information.

Users are less likely to check whether the links on the smartphone are safe or not because they don't think of it as a computer, James Lyne, director of technology strategy at Sophos, told eWEEK. They are often more susceptible to phishing scams, malicious sites and drive-by downloads on the mobile device than they are on the PC, Lyne said.

There have been more than 100,000 phishing attacks targeting frequently visited sites such as Facebook, banking sites, government agencies and donation Websites, according to Lookout. Users are three times more likely to click on a suspicious link on a mobile phone because of the smaller screen than they would on a PC, a recent report from Trusteer found.

Currently available only for the default Android Web browser, Lookout may support alternate browsers such as Firefox in future releases.

After working with the new feature for the past week, eWEEK found that the scan is quick and unobtrusive. The only indication the user has that the site has been scanned is a small green shield, the Lookout logo, that appears in the notifications bar. If the site was malicious, Safe Browsing pops up a warning, "You are visiting a site that may not be safe. We recommend that you do not visit this page." Users can click on the button to "Proceed Anyway," at the risk that the user's phone will be compromised.

Safe Browsing also scanned links from within the Facebook application, protecting users from malicious sites and "click jacking" scams that proliferate on the social-networking site. This was perhaps the most useful part of Safe Browsing, as users tend to trust links posted by their friends, not always realizing that the malicious site may have posted the link automatically after tricking the friend into clicking on it in the first place. eWEEK tested several malicious links and triggered the Safe Browsing warning each time.

Safe Browsing is included in the latest version of the Lookout Premium service, a security application that scans the phone for malware, performs regular backups and restores, and tracks lost/stolen devices. Safe Browsing shows up as a new option on its main screen that is toggled on. There is no need to run a manual scan or to fiddle with the settings once it is turned on.

A free trial is available, and the Premium service itself is priced at $3 per month. Sprint has also partnered with Lookout to provide its customers with the Lookout Mobile Security application. The application appears under the "Sprint Tab" in the Android Market as well as on the Sprint Zone.