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Three innovations shortlisted for mobile phone security challenge

12 February 2010  |  3771 views  |  0 Source: M2 Comms

Three new design innovations to tackle mobile phone crime, including a device that locks a phone and alerts the owner if it is taken away from them, have been unveiled today.

The prototypes were developed by teams of designers and technology experts as part of the Mobile Phone Security Challenge, an initiative from the Home Office Design and Technology Alliance and the Design Council, with support and funding from the Technology Strategy Board.

The aim of the challenge was to protect mobile phone users from crimes such as mobile phone identity fraud, which rose by over 70% in 2009, to make phones more secure and to prevent unauthorised use of mobiles for electronic 'contactless' payments, soon to be become widespread in the UK.

The solutions are: -- i-migo- a small device which the user keeps about their person. The i-migo sounds an alert and locks the handset if it is taken out of a set range - either through theft or loss. The i-migo also provides automated backup of important data using Bluetooth technology.

-- The 'tie' solution - this electronically matches a handset to a SIM card and protects data stored on the handset with a password and encryption. If stolen, the handset cannot be used with another SIM and data such as saved passwords, browsed websites, and contacts cannot be accessed by criminals, who can use it to defraud victims, by hacking into online bank accounts.

-- TouchSafe- aimed at making "M-Commerce" transactions more secure by using a small card worn or carried by the user, who discreetly touches the phone to the card to enable the transaction. Touch Safe uses the same Near Field Communication (NFC) technology currently used by the Oyster travel card.

The three working prototypes will be on display from the 15 to 18 February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the mobile industry's annual trade show. The Design and Technology Alliance and the Design Council will be calling for the industry to protect their customers by adopting these innovative security technologies.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said: "Overall crime has fallen since 1997 but as new technology creates new opportuniortunities for the user it can also provide criminals with opportunities as well. This is where designing out crime can make a real difference and we are leading the way by using technology to protect the public.

"I believe the solutions developed by this challenge have the potential to be as successful as previous innovations like Chip and Pin, which reduced fraud on lost or stolen cards to an all time low, and would encourage industry to continue working with us and take them up." Joe McGeehan, Alliance member and Managing Director, Toshiba Europe and Director for Communications Research, Bristol University, said: 'With the rapid growth in mobile phone usage, and particularly the smart phone, more and more people are carrying sensitive information on their handsets thereby increasing their vulnerability to identity theft. It is essential that individuals have the ability to protect themselves against such crime. The Alliance has been encouraging the mobile communications industry to provide better, more user-friendly and innovative tools, for this purpose.

The recent 'Challenge' was an initiative taken by the Alliance to bring top design organisations and high tech companies together to develop such tools." The technologies were developed in consultation with experts from some of the biggest phone companies and manufacturers.

David Kester, Alliance member and Chief Executive, Design Council: "It's about thinking smarter than criminals. Designers have provided innovations that are one step ahead; new phones are still desirable to consumers but they're useless to criminals if they're equipped with these new concepts. The technology behind each of these ideas provides UK companies with promising business opportunities." David Bott, Alliance member and Director of Innovation Programmes, Technology Strategy Board, said: "The ability of the Technology Strategy Board to use its networks and stimulate collaboration between technology and design companies has been a very fruitful experience for all involved. With our goal of accelerating innovative products to market, we have been very pleased to fund this challenge." Steve Babbage, Security Technologies Manager and Group Chief Cryptographer, Vodafone Group R&D, said: "Security is likely to be an increasingly important issue for consumers in the coming years. These prototypes show real working solutions that could reduce mobile phone crime and make phone users, their identities, their sensitive data and their cash safer." Jack Wraith, Secretary of the Communications Crime Strategy Group, said: "The telecommunications industry welcomes the innovative work that has and is being done by the Alliance Against Crime and the Design Council in making the operation of mobile phones a more secure experience for the consumer.

The winning prototypes from the Challenge demonstrate that design and security can go hand in hand." Previous advances in technology have led to unexpected new forms of crime; email heralded the phenomenon of 'phishing', ATMs precipitated the new crime of 'card catching' and online banking gave rise to 'key logging', used by fraudsters to track the input of secret passwords and account numbers.

However, there are also many examples of technology being applied successfully to reduce crime - for example, British Crime Survey figures show theft of vehicles has reduced by 51% since 1997 as a result of improved security being designed into the vehicle, and an evaluation of houses built to the ACPO Secured By Design (SBD) standards showed that these experience 26% less crime than non SBD houses, and residents fear of crime is lower. The introduction of Chip and PIN has helped reduce fraud on lost or stolen cards to its lowest total since the industry began collating fraud loss figures in 1991.

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