Lookout App Promises ‘Selfie’ Of Mobile Thieves

phone theft kill switch pocket thief © Ammentorp Photography Shutterstock

Thieves beware, as a new app targets the sticky fingered when they purloin people’s precious mobile phones

The problem caused by the theft of mobile phones is now so great that firms are beginning to give users the tools to fight back against this epidemic.

To that end, apps such as Lookout Mobile Security are touting their ability to take the fight to the criminals.

Criminal Selfie?

The Lockout app launches after new research shows that 68 percent of phone theft victims are unable to recover a stolen device. The company hopes its app will give owners the tools to help them recover their precious mobile devices, thanks to the addition of “Theft Alerts”.

Father Christmas phone selfie snapchat © Tyler Olson ShutterstockEssentially, Theft Alerts (Android and iOS only) provides users with contextual alerts anytime suspicious activity occurs on their device. It aims to counter the common practices taken by thieves when they steal a mobile phone, such as removing the SIM card or powering off the device.

“Lookout’s Theft Alerts recognizes these actions, and within minutes sends the victim an email with 1) a photo of the thief and 2) a map of the device’s exact location, providing the victim with clues to take immediate action and get their phone back,” said the company.

The app will activate when it detects an incorrect entry of a passcode, the SIM card being removed, airplane mode being enabled, the device being turned off, or Lookout being removed as device administrator.

“From the day we started Lookout, we’ve dedicated ourselves to fighting smartphone theft,” said Kevin Mahaffey, co-founder and CTO of Lookout. “Today, the problem has grown so large that nearly 70 percent of phone theft victims never get their phone back. This is not right. That’s why we decided to build Theft Alerts, a real-time service that intelligently arms users with information they need to get their precious devices and data back.”

Lockout’s research reveal that most smartphone thefts in the United States take place in restaurants, bars, nightclubs, on public transport, at work and finally on the street. And more often than not, those phones contain valuable personal data.

The problem of mobile phone theft has got so bad, that just last month US operators finally agreed to a basic anti-theft kill-switch for smartphones sold in the country.

Stolen Handsets

Meanwhile in the UK, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has contacted his counterparts in New York and San Francisco and written to the UK heads of Apple, BlackBerry, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, HTC, Microsoft and Sony demanding they work together to create an anti-theft system.

Last August the Metropolitan police said that mobile phone thefts in London alone had reached 7,000 a month. The police have been given new technology to allow them to rapidly identify stolen mobile phones.

Taking down mobile phones thieves is nothing new. In 2011, Burnley student James Bird used the ‘Find My iPhone’ app to track down the thief of his stolen iPhone. Bird then chased and confronted the thief on a bus, who returned the stolen handset.

The thief was later arrested by police.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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