Three prototype pieces of technology, designed to cut down on mobile-phone crime, have been unveiled by the Home Office and the Design Council.
The prototypes, announced on Thursday, are aimed at protecting phone users against identity fraud and device theft, and making handsets more secure for contactless electronic payments. The designs came out of a Home Office-sponsored contest called the Mobile Phone Security Challenge.
The first of the designs is the i-migo, a key fob that has a wireless Bluetooth connection to the handset. If the phone and device are separated by more than a preset distance, the phone is locked and the i-migo sounds an alert.
According to the Home Office, 228 mobile phones are reported stolen in the UK every hour.
The i-migo also provides Bluetooth-based backup for important data held on the handset.
The second design is called the ‘tie’. It is a password and encryption system that protects data stored on the handset, while also tying the phone to the SIM card.
Using the software, the phone and SIM are paired using trust chaining, asymmetric cipher and public key infrastructure methods. A stolen handset would not be able to function with another SIM card, and sensitive data — browser history, stored passwords and so on — would be inaccessible to the thief. According to the Home Office, this could protect the user’s online identity.
The Home Office said in a statement that mobile-phone identity fraud rose by over 70 percent in 2009.
The last of the designs is TouchSafe, which is a small card that can be worn or carried by the user.
The card is aimed at further securing near-field communications (NFC) transactions carried out using handsets. The mobile industry is currently pushing to incorporate NFC, a form of RFID technology, into phones so that they can be used for contactless payments, in much the same way as London’s Oyster travelcard or recent credit cards.
According to the Home Office, the rise of NFC could lead to security breaches based on data interception or phone cloning. TouchSafe could combat this threat by requiring the user to touch the card on the phone before a transaction or payment is made.
The Home Office said in August 2009 that it wanted all NFC-enabled handsets to be registered on a voluntary database, to cut the potential for crime associated with the technology.