Lookout vs SMobile Security Shield: Anti-Virus And Anti-Spyware, Is There A Difference Besides Free?

April 15, 2010 | By

I have been a big fan of SMobile Security and their products after using them for so long. I like the assurance of being able to look up current and past threats in the Global Threat Center for reference and information. There’s been a new product in beta that’s free which I’ve been reading about by the name of Lookout. For the sake of security I feel it’s important to have a product that works as you would expect. And while there are no viruses currently affecting the BlackBerry system, there is the threat of spyware.

In beginning my comparison, I have to look at the sites. SMobile has the business and personal choices, several tabs including Blog and Support. They have an online dashboard that you have access to. They also have the ability to run an “enterprise” where you can manage a dashboard and manage phones no matter what platform they are except for the iPhone. From there you can manage the phones similar to BES. They also have the Global Threat Center where all threats are listed with a description, much similar to McAfee.

So now a look at the Lookout site. The main page has Home, Learn More, Blog, and Help. There’s also Sign-Up and Login. By going through the site I can see that they include a dashboard, states it too can manage a varied platform of phones, gives the GPS tracking ability, wipe, and can back up contacts and pictures. It has an anti-virus and also a firewall. For me the firewall is something we all have on our BlackBerry device, but it isn’t activated by default. So now to download the product and find out how the dashboard and the app will work on my BlackBerry.

Now a little bit on the companies themselves. I’ll begin with Lookout. Lookout was founded in 2007 by a group of technologists. Their goal was to protect mobile devices with a comprehensive software suite that is simple, lightweight and effective. There’s no mention of their security specialists on the site that I could find. On the blog there are first names, but that was it.

SMobile was founded in 2002 and leads in comprehensive security solutions. The products they offer are AntiVirus, Firewall, AntiSpam, AntiTheft, Identity Protection, Enterprise Controls, and even software to monitor your child’s phone. Their customers range from governments and corporations to consumers and their families. The Executive Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer Dan V. Hoffman is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and a Certified Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI). The Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Miller has been active in the security industry since 1993, specializing in mobile security for the last 12 years. Previously at Symantec, he was their Managing Director for Mobile Security with global responsibilities for their mobile strategy and business.

The reason I decided to put the two to the test is for the following reasons: First what if you or a loved one were to have an extremely jealous significant other? These spyware sites prey on the insecurities of such consumers using the trust issue. There has been more media coverage on it lately, including Good Morning America. It’s frightening, and it’s real. There have been cases of murder, stalking, etc with these types of spyware. With this in mind, it’s important that if you don’t password protect your phone, and you trust someone else with it, then you should be aware there are potential dangers. These spyware programs act similar to a trojan on a pc, stripping you of your privacy and leaving you completely vulnerable. With this they can read your texts, see your pictures, listen in on your conversations on or off the phone, track you, and access your emails.  Because of the seriousness of such incidences, this is why I decided to put it to the test. To use a title of an Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware then it should perform as such. McAfee is a product you’ve come to know, yet AVG does a fair job for being free. I went into this testing with an open mind and trust in both. Let’s see how the tests went.

For my testing I am using my BlackBerry 9630 with 5.0. I also installed five popular spyware (Flexispy, MobileSpy, PhoneSnoop, Flexispy Pro, and SpyBubble) that can be downloaded to the BlackBerry system, and this is what I found. The screenshots you will see will be from both the BlackBerry Device displaying the software app, scan and results, but also you will see screenshots of the Dashboard on the PC as well.

The test was done like this: The latest version of both anti-virus were installed on my BlackBerry Tour. One spyware was installed at a time and each anti-virus was run, one at a time to see if the spyware would be detected. At the end of the first run, I uninstalled both programs and reinstalled again. I downloaded the same spyware, and I ran the Lookout first.

The Lookout is free, yes, but guess what? I scanned twice and it said there was no infected files on my phone. Not one spyware that I downloaded was detected, and they’re all popular spyware! And not only that, it says everything is ok. I could see it missing one, but it didn’t even catch one. This concerns me as you could have spyware on your phone and it remains undetected. Now backup didn’t work for pictures either. I was somewhat let down over the results of my findings, but again the product is in BETA so perhaps with some time and work, it could evolve. Backup is only useful if you want your contacts backed up. If you’re a Verizon customer, use your Backup Assistant and you will have the same results free without having to download this software.

SMobile results. With SMobile I can update daily or hourly. I updated the anti-virus and began running the test. You have the option of which files to scan like a pc. As it scans, it shows all files and when it’s done shows you either clean or infected and which files. It names them for you, which it did, then I have two choices. I can click the options button and click delete virus and it will give you details about the removal. Or you can go to Options/Applications and remove them manually which will still require a restart of your BlackBerry.

So to conclude the findings, I will lay out what I observed. The chart displayed shows each spyware, the software and beneath I placed N/A if the spyware went undetected, and an x if it was detected. I was hoping that the Lookout would have caught at least one. As a result of this testing, I would definitely recommend that if you are looking for a real anti-virus/anti-spyware program for your phone and are truly concerned, I would invest in the SMobile Security Shield. The choice is yours but so is your peace of mind. It’s important when you are looking to protect your Blackberry and yourself that you find something that offers that solution. If you’re going to trust a product, be sure it’s one you can trust. And if it’s going to use the term anti-virus, be sure it does just that. You owe it to yourself and to your loved ones.

On a personal note, I was really stunned and felt so uneasy with knowing that an application that says it’s anti-virus did not catch such a threat. If I were in a serious situation and my privacy were in jeopardy, I would have a false sense of security to rely on Lookout. On the other hand, I felt so completely relieved each time the Shield found the spyware and removed it. We live in a society where we can be tracked and stalked not only in person, but cyber-stalked as well. I don’t let anyone play with my phone, but as technology advances, I feel best when I know that I am prepared. I ask you, is there a difference between a program that has an annual subscription and a program that is free? You decide.

***Something else I’d like to point out is that the majority of the spyware does not install in your downloads, while one or two may appear and need to be hidden from you the victim, the majority is found only in Options/Applications and is cleverly named as BlackBerry files, which appear to be part of the system. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you would never know it was there. ***

You can grab a copy of the SMobile Security Shield with Anti-Virus for $24.99 annual subscription here

You can grab a free copy of Lookout Mobile Security here

Does anyone have any questions or thoughts about the testing? Please share.

Filed in: Beta, BlackBerry, Downloads, Free Apps, Security, Software | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Josh D

    Thanks for the Heads up Susan. Great read. I downloaded thinking I made out with something, I see that as of right now that is not the case

  • Susan

    This is the scariest type of testing I’ve done. I held my breath everytime the Lookout missed it, and was biting my nails, and as the SMobile found it and asked me to delete with restart, I breathed a sigh of relief and felt a smile come back. Scary stuff. And with all the advances for technology out there, this is just the beginning!

  • Larry J

    As a person concerned with the safety of my family and personal information, I view this as a complete breach of trust by Lookout. Not finding a single popular piece of Malware while claiming that the product is, in fact, an Anti-Malware solution is simply outright lying and irresponsible. Thank you for this detailed analysis. Just because a company enters the market and claims to be a security company doesn’t mean that they actually are. What a sham and embarrassment.

  • firstmill

    Lookout is a joke, I try it last week I was amaze by how inferior their anti-virus is. Hey, it’s free at least.

  • http://mylookout.com Jenny, Lookout

    Susan, thanks for your write-up. We appreciate your early feedback on our new Beta product. Keeping people safe is our number one priority. Our company has an extensive security background that includes experience from major security companies like Symantec and McAfee. We do protect against this type of spyware on our products for other platforms. For Blackberry, we’ve tracked down the problem and will be publishing an update shortly.

    We’d love to hear any additional feedback. The way we build a great product is through continuous feedback from our users.

    – Jenny, Lookout

  • Geneveve

    Sounds like Lookout is guilty of either gross incompetence or outright deception. Neither of which is a trait I would want in my security company.

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  • OMG

    WOW! SMobile _claims_ to be a security company
    but they also sell spyware disguised as ‘parental control’

    what a bunch of scumbags

    I smell hypocrites!!!!

  • Susan

    You must not be a parent to understand. Parental Control is no different than a monitor you kept in your child’s room. I’d rather have the assurance as a parent to know what’s going on than to have a call from the principal’s office or worse yet, see pictures of my child online. There are predators out there and it’s our job to defend our children. It’s not spyware, you can’t listen in to the calls. As with any device, there’s always a good and bad way to use it. A gun in the hands of a criminal is a weapon, but in the holster of a policeman is security.

  • Rachel

    Susan, great article! Here’s an idea – take the strong antivirus engine of smobile, slap it with a free price like lookout, and you get NetQin. NetQin’s mobile security software has the best of both worlds. Definitely worth a try – http://www.netqin.com

  • Susan

    Too bad the NetQin isn’t available for BlackBerry devices. Sometimes you get what you pay for. And when you put in a lot of money to develop an effective system of updating your antivirus and keeping up with the latest virus and spyware threats, the support has to come from somewhere. The better a product is, the more it costs. I don’t hear anyone complaining of the cost of a Porsche or Mercedes Benz. We had a choice to buy a cheap phone or our BlackBerry. With that said, sometimes value proves itself. Of course if you keep your phone locked and are careful with what you download, then you have no need to worry about spyware.

  • http://www.mobistealth.com Bill Adam

    There is also a great product about cell phone spy which is Mobistealth, offering great value features like sms log, video, picture, email, data log and gps tracking

  • tvennon

    @Bill Adam – MobiStealth is categorized as Spyware by SMobile and (eventually) Lookout. MobiStealth has the ability to hide itself on a device so that an attacker can install the application, unbeknownst to a user and can illegally monitor much of their communication and location. This is spyware. SMobile has been detecting MobiStealth as spyware since it was released to the public. Lookout joined the party several months later after this report was released.

  • http://brucediran adediran ademuyiwa

    I downloaded lookout but i cant sign up for lookout

  • http://www.mobistealth.com Bill Adam

    @tvennon yes you are right but now i am exploring more about this and i found that mobistalth has changed its way and now no one can detect mobistealth as spyware.

  • Susan

    SMobile detects everything AND is updated daily. It has to be installed on the phone first (mobi). So either an unsuspecting victim who doesn’t lock thir phone or someone naïve enough to click any link you send.

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  • Andrea

    Please, I need help because I bought a security shield app for BlackBerry Curve 8520. I followed all the settings, but when I tried to register the device, after installation, appeared always update failed. SMobile support tried helping me, but their indications and suggestions were useless. I am writing from Italy. Can I get any help, please? Many thanks!

  • http://lookout.com CHRISX

    Susan, I’m glad you took the time and tested both apps. But I have to say, the way of your testing is what I call “hill billy” testing, simple but it works. (not trying to put you down here!!)I have dealt with the same issues, as far as scanning with different antivirus software and not finding or finding viruses. This kind of things happens even to the best apps, such as McAffee and Symantec. A proper test environment would show neutral results, i.e.: verifying that the antivirus software and version is actually designed for your make, model and software versions, also you need to record all data and file sizes, dates etc, before you start any testing….also making sure that the right settings are used and the databases are up to date, etc. Another good thing that came out of your testing is that actually somebody from the company responded to it and took action…this is a positive that should be counted at the end of testing as well…anyways there is simply to much to write on this topic….

  • Susan


    You can call the testing as you wish, I tested it twice. The Lookout didn’t miss one as I would have been expecting, it missed them all both times! Our blog tries to reach out to both newbies and the business users. While there are some technical users out there, I didn’t want to get so technical and specific that it misses the point. I just pointed out what it found testing twice. No settings were changed, my phone remained the same before and after. It is a positive they responded but when I emailed them to ask them to let me know of the update and if they were up for a retest I was given no response, so that says something as well. Several smartphone users are issued a device from work and many don’t really learn the technical side of their phone, including newbies. We’re here to be informative and not go into so much detail, since there are the companies who do well at posting the technical information you are referring to. Besides, if a cup doesn’t hold water and I fill it twice and it leaks all the contents to empty, does it really matter if it were 5 or 8 ounces?

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  • http://www.cellphonespyreviews.net Cell Phone Spy

    Hi Susan,
    I am glad that You have tested these apps and prove on us that all the mobile spyware and anti-viruses are detectable. Because I read a undetectable app feature on every mobile spyware website as i am freelance marketer. Anyway I think Junipur is a big network who powered SMobile Security. Cisco and Junipur both have the big networks who provide satellite signal devices to mobile service providers and developing an anti spyware app is not a big deal for them.

  • Susan

    Juniper acquired SMobile Security, and they do keep up on all the latest threats out there for mobile as well as pc’s and laptops, etc. But to personally put them to the test was really a great way of seeing it for myself.