by James A. Martin

Two Android Security Apps That Snap Pics of Smartphone Thieves

Oct 04, 20122 mins

Two popular Android security apps, Kaspersky Mobile Security and TrustGo Mobile Security, can now snap photos of smartphone thieves after they've stolen a device. But blogger James A. Martin questions the real-world value of these new features. Here's why.

Statistics show that more than 110 smartphones are lost or stolen every minute in the United States. That translates into a huge amount of people frantically running around, feeling as if their right hands have been cut off.

Two new Android apps promise to come to the rescue. Kaspersky Mobile Security (currently $10 for a one-year license) and TrustGo Mobile Security (free) both include new features that can snap photos of your Android device’s thief, according to their developers. (I haven’t actually tested these features.)

Kaspersky Mobile Security now communicates with a Web-based control center, which lets users control the app’s security features from any Internet-connected computer. Using the control center, you can remotely lock or wipe your AWOL Android and—here’s the cool part—snap a photo on the sly of anyone using your phone. A “Mugshot” feature in the control center takes over your Android device’s front-facing camera and secretly snaps photos of the perp, which you can then view through the control center or receive in an email message.

Kaspersky’s app also includes a feature for remotely locating, locking and wiping a missing Android. You can also view activity logs and determine if the phone’s SIM card has been removed.

Don’t want to pay the $10 for Kaspersky Mobile Security? TrustGo Mobile Security might be for you. The anti-virus security app recently added a “Candid Camera” feature that lets users automatically take photos of anyone who unsuccessfully enters their locked Android phone’s password three times. The photo comes to you in an email. The app also offers a “find my phone” tool, as well as remote lock, wipe, and alarm features and other security controls.

TrustGo Android security screen shot

The photo-of-the-thief idea is a novel one, but I wonder how effective a photo will be in apprehending the crook? Smartphone theft is extremely common these days, and I doubt many police departments have time to fully investigate. A GPS location, usage logs and a photo might help—but I wouldn’t want to rely on them. A better bet: Be judicious in how and where you use your smartphone. For more on that, see my post “5 Surefire Ways to Get Your iPhone or iPad Stolen.”