Mobile security and the enterprise factor

Mobile device security is about more than the consumer offer, says Lookout’s Thomas Labarthe 

Lookout sees its footprint in the consumer market as a stepping stone to the enterprise mobile security space, where it intends to capitalise on the growing ‘bring your own device’ trend. The company’s security software monitors a mobile phone’s activity and warns the user if suspicious activity is detected.

It has worked with a range of network operators including Orange, Telstra, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, which preload the Lookout solution on the devices they distribute. 

This led France Telecom-owned Orange’s venture capital arm, Iris Capital, based in France, to partner with and invest in the company.

“We aim to redefine security in a post-PC era and our ambition is to secure the entire mobile ecosystem,” Thomas Labarthe, Lookout managing director for Europe, explains. “We have some competitors in the market, but our main competitor is ignorance. Security is also a design issue, and it’s up to us to build a solution that promotes that vision. We want to secure the mobile stack from the hardware to the application layer in the consumer sector and, more recently, in the enterprise environment.”

To this end the US smartphone security developer last year partnered with South Korean telecoms giant Samsung’s security product, Knox, built for the Android system, in the first announcement it made regarding its enterprise sector aspirations. The US Department of Defense has since gone on to approve Knox for government use.

Just a few weeks ago Lookout aligned with several partners in the ecosystem, securing financing from Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, Qualcomm and Peter Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management to support its move to the enterprise sector and support the development of its strategy in that market. 

“Thiel [also co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies] always says he looks to invest in companies that have the potential to redefine an industry, and this is what we are doing at Lookout, by bringing together two huge trends: mobile security and Big Data,” Labarthe says, adding that, following this logic, the company provides phishing and malicious website blocking, privacy advice, photo and call history backup and device-to-device data transfer as well as remote locking and wiping features.

He continues: “While overall crime has gone down, phone theft is on the rise. In a similar vein, the amount of mobile phishing, SMS fraud, toll fraud and adware is rising significantly because people carry around their life on their mobile devices. They’re easy targets.”

According to Lookout’s data, 26 per cent of people are unaware of the risks of clicking on unfamiliar links while browsing on mobile.

Part of the funding will also go towards international expansion, as half of Lookout’s growth comes from outside its home US market. It has around 45 million customers worldwide, with a growing number of Fortune 1000 company employees using its software to secure their mobile devices.

Labarthe himself, formerly managing director of Alcatel-Lucent’s mobile commerce unit, was appointed last April to support Lookout’s growth plans and drive partner adoption in the EU.