John Hering is executive director and cofounder of Lookout, a free app that protects Android users from malicious apps. The app uses a Mobile Threat Network, or a database, including more than a million rogue apps, that it continuously adds to as the company’s software scans and analyzes apps worldwide. When an Android smartphone owner uses Lookout’s app, it compares installed apps against its database of known threats and notifies the user when matches occur. Last year, Lookout found over 1,000 virus-infected apps. Since Lookout was founded in 2007, Hering has grown its footprint to tens of millions of users globally across consumer, enterprise, and government sectors.
Hering has been recognized as an industry leader and innovator. BusinessWeek named him a “Best Young Tech Entrepreneur,” Fortune named him a “Smartest Person in Tech”, the editors of MIT Tech Review dubbed John a “35 Under 35” entrepreneur and Fortune Magazine included John on its list of “40 Under 40” entrepreneurs. Hering also frequently presents at mobile and technology industry events including: RSA, Mobile World Congress, Black Hat Technical Security Conference, DEFCON, and Fortune Brainstorm.
How Lookout came about
In 2004, Hering and several college friends discovered a security weakness in early bluetooth technology. Then in 2005, they proved that a security breach was possible when they executed a hacking stunt at the Oscar’s. This stunt led to the launch of Hering’s mobile-security startup, Lookout. Hering details this experience in an Inc. video.
“So it was 2004 or 2005, and believe it or not Bluetooth technology was just taking off. We had spent a ton of time thinking what can we do with this? And we ended up finding a huge vulnerability in Bluetooth. What we learned was: we were able to, through this vulnerability, take control of the phone, pull information off of it, turn the microphone into a bug. You know, very James Bond stuff.
Hering and his friends reported these security vulnerabilities to Nokia in 2004. When Nokia remained largely dismissive towards their claims, they decided to act. They staged a full-scale hacking stunt at the 2005 Academy Awards.
“I remember vividly we looked at each other thinking ‘oh man we should go there, bring our equipment, and actually scan everyone, not hack them, but demonstrate that they could be,'” says Hering.
The team successfully scanned hundreds of celebrity devices, and eventually explained their purpose to reporters from the New York Times. Then on March 2, 2005 the Times published an article about the Bluetooth vulnerabilities Hering and his friends had found.
“So the New York Times article hits, we get tons of press coverage, everyone’s talking about this, and that’s what inspired us to start Lookout,” says Hering. “We went from a group of hackers in a loft, to building a company now that’s reaching tens of millions – soon to be hundreds of millions – of people around the world.”