‘Theftie’ app to keep Lookout for smartphone thieves

Smartphone camera will send photo to crime victims with location of users

Move over preening selfie-snappers, the smartphone camera is being harnessed as the latest crime-fighting tool with the invention of the “theftie”.

Lookout, a San Francisco-based mobile security company, is launching a product that will send victims a photograph of the thief who snatched their mobile phone.

“ The “theftie” is triggered when someone enters a wrong passcode, removes the SIM card or turns the device off, and is sent with a map of the device’s exact location to the registered user.

Politicians in both the US and the UK have been pressuring phone companies to do more to help prevent mobile phone theft. One in 10 smartphone owners in the US, UK, France and Germany have been a victim of phone theft, according to a report by IDG Research on behalf of Lookout.


Apple and Google already provide tracking services to locate a lost phone. LG Electronics' latest flagship smartphone, launched on Tuesday, incorporates a "kill switch" that allows a phone's owner remotely to lock a device, preventing access to personal information. Lookout's "theftie" goes a step further in helping police catch the thief.

Smartphone theft risks the person’s privacy and, as workers increasingly use their devices for company business, potentially leads to the loss of the confidential information lying in most inboxes. Some 10 per cent of phone theft victims report the loss of confidential company data, the report said.

Kevin Mahaffey, Lookout co-founder and chief technology officer, said the theft alerts were intended to be "a real-time service that intelligently arms users with information they need to get their precious devices and data back".

The alerts will also help users remotely back up personal data, lock the device and wipe data.

Cyber crime is on the rise with attackers, including nation states, becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods. The US last week issued a warrant accusing the Chinese military of stealing intellectual property, while eBay announced it was the victim of an attack that may have led to millions of encrypted passwords being compromised.

But street criminals also threaten online security, as they can sell what data they find on devices on the black market. Phone thieves might not want a company’s product plan, negotiation strategy or customer data but the black market can match them up with someone who does.

Lookout is expanding internationally under Jim Dolce, its new chief executive who is formerly of Akamai Technologies and Juniper Networks. Founded in 2007, it was one of the first companies to focus on mobile security.

Soaring smartphone adoption means cyber criminals are moving from the desktop to mobile devices. The market for mobile security products, such as the apps offered and sold by Lookout, is expected to reach almost $3bn by the end of 2014, according to research group Canalys. (Financial Times)