Mobile security has been a topic of discussion when it comes to Android phones, but less so when talking about iOS devices, which use a different mechanism for installing software. However, Lookout Security thinks there is enough opportunity on iPhone users to release an official app for the security-minded, even if all that app does is aggregate many already-existing features and notifications into a central place.
Lookout plans to unveil Lookout for iPhone later on Tuesday, an app that lets iPhone users glance at a single screen and know if their device is protected when it comes to security (both physical and network), data backup, and lost or missing devices, said Chris Jones, vice president of product for Lookout. The mobile security company has 12 million users of its security products almost completely on Android devices, but Jones said that an iPhone application was among the top requests received by the company.
It’s a little hard to understand why. Unlike Android phones, iPhones that have not been “jailbroken” (more on that later) will not install any software that actually runs on the device unless it is available in Apple’s App Store. That means you can’t download and install a rogue app or a malicious app that is pretending to be something else and compromise your security.
Likewise, any time you connect to a new wireless network on your iPhone, you’re prompted to either enter security credentials for that network or you’re informed that it’s an unsecure network. And now with iCloud, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) can back up files, contacts and data as well as install software updates without having to connect the device to a computer, increasing the chances that people will upgrade to the latest (and probably most secure) software.
But Jones said a growing number of iPhone users are less security-aware than perhaps the early adopters of the platform, and like the idea of a central screen in which they can see a color-coded status update of their current security profile. The app will tell iPhone users if they are running the latest software, if they are connected to a insecure wireless network, and even whether or not their phone has been jailbroken.
Jailbreaking an iPhone means to strip it of the protections that tie it to the App Store, allowing you to put anything developed for iOS on your phone regardless of what Apple thinks. (This voids your warranty.) One might think an iPhone user would remember going through the somewhat-complicated jailbreaking process, but Jones said an increasing number of iPhones are being purchased on third-party networks like eBay (NSDQ: EBAY), where there’s no guarantee that you’re getting a factory-fresh iPhone.
All skepticism aside about the current need for an iOS security app, it is free. So if you’re concerned about security and unfamiliar with the iPhone, peace of mind won’t cost you anything.
Future versions might help protect iPhone users against browser-based threats from the mobile Web, Jones said. Those are extremely rare at the moment but could potentially grow as the mobile Web grows in prominence and criminals start to take advantage.