If you download apps from alternative markets or other sources such as discussion forums (commonly referred to as “side-loading” apps), File System Monitoring and Install Monitoring add an extra level of protection for you. While Lookout already protects users from these types of applications by scanning them immediately upon install, these two new features offer unique ways to detect threats before they are installed on a device.
The ability to download apps from a variety of sources is considered one of the unique strengths of the Android platform. However, we generally advise people to use caution when “side-loading,” or downloading an app outside of the official Android Market (aka Google Play) in order to minimize the chance of encountering malware. We know a lot of our users like to explore everything on Android, even if that means downloading apps from a source you’ve never even heard of before. For these cases, File System Monitoring and Install Monitoring are here to protect you.
File System Monitoring
File System Monitoring actively watches your SD card for file changes. When a new app is downloaded to your SD card, but not yet installed, File System Monitoring will alert you in real time if it’s malware. This active monitoring is a much better watchdog for your SD card than a scheduled file system scan, and we’ve designed it in a way that won’t impact your battery life. A file system scan scheduled for Tuesday won’t tell you about the malware you downloaded on Wednesday for six days!
Power users, take note! Because File System Monitoring relies on its ability to ‘watch’ the SD card for changes, it works great for most methods of side-loading, such as when you download an app from the web or from email directly on your mobile device. In cases where you un-mount your SD card to transfer apps manually, File System Monitoring won’t be able to scan any new apps you may transfer. This is where Install Monitoring comes in…
Lookout for Android is the first security app to feature Install Monitoring, giving you the option to scan apps at the beginning of a side-load app installation process. When you tap on an .apk package to install it, Install Monitoring will prompt you to optionally scan the app before installing. If an app checks out as clean, installation proceeds as normal without any inconvenience to you. You can even set this as a default behavior so that Lookout will automatically conduct scans on all future side-load installs!
Note that when you get apps from Google Play, they’re automatically downloaded and installed on your device, so Lookout’s existing security scanning is still an essential facet of mobile protection for users.
If you are an existing Lookout Free or Lookout Premium user, install the latest update of Lookout for Android to access these features. You can turn off automatic File System Monitoring in Settings>Security in the Lookout app. You’ll also be able to set preferences for Install Monitoring the first time you install a side-loaded app through Android’s standard intent selection dialog, and thereafter through the ‘Launch By Default’ section of Lookout’s App info page in system settings.
We think that these new features really add an important new level of security for power users – they’re like monster tires for off-roading on your Android! Let us know what you think!