Hands-On with the ViaProtect Smartphone App

Introduction

Chicago-based mobile-security firm ViaForensics today (Feb. 25) debuted a new smartphone app called ViaProtect, which gives iOS and Android users a solid snapshot into what their devices are doing behind the scenes.

Our hands-on reveals that ViaProtect is a powerful and useful tool that could benefit every smartphone user concerned about his or her privacy and security.

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ViaProtect tells users how much of their devices' Internet traffic is encrypted, which servers their devices communicate with most often and which countries their data goes to.

Registered users who create ViaProtect accounts will get a page on the ViaProtect website that aggregates the data from all of the devices on which the user had ViaProtect installed.

The Web account also breaks down Internet traffic so that users can see which apps communicate the most, and where traffic from those apps goes. (The app-by-app breakdown will be "coming to the mobile app soon," a ViaForensics representative told us.)

The amount of detail provided by the ViaProtect website about a mobile device is pretty enormous, and some of the more eye-opening revelations may lead users to consider uninstalling certain apps.

ViaProtect is in public beta at the moment, but ViaForensics told us the app would graduate to full-fledged status in about a month. The beta we tested appears to be a work in progress, with subtle but clear signs that more features may be added.

The ViaProtect app is free for consumers and will stay that way. The company will also be marketing it to enterprises, which can use it to monitor devices approved for use within their corporate Wi-Fi networks.

Installing and setting up ViaProtect

We got an advance copy of ViaProtect and had to side-load the app onto our Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, but iOS and Android users will be able to download the app directly from the iTunes Store or Google Play beginning Feb. 25.

ViaProtect works on iOS 6 and 7, and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and up, with retroactive support planned for Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

Upon starting up the app, we were presented with a screen that asked us to choose between registering the device by entering an email address or joining as a "guest." Guests don't get access to the personalized Web pages with their extra features, but will be able to read everything the ViaProtect app provides on the actual device.

We chose to register, and quickly received an email with a link that led us to a ViaProtect online account-setup page.

We were a bit miffed that our first few password tries were rejected for being too weak, but that restriction does indicate that ViaForensics takes security seriously. (The ViaProtect website also logs you out if you've been inactive for more than 15 minutes.)