Beating mobile phone crime

Three ways to tackle mobile phone crime are been unveiled today.

The prototypes were developed by designers and technology experts as part of the UK's 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 idea 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  ‘contactless’ payments.

The solutions include:

i-migo, a small device that the user keeps on them and which sounds an alert and locks the handset if it is taken out of a set range. The i-migo also automatically backs up key data using Bluetooth.

The ‘tie’ solution, which 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 mobile 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 NFC technology.

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: “As new technology creates new opportunities for the user it can also provide criminals with opportunities as well. This is where designing out crime can make a real difference.

“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:"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 technologies were developed in consultation with experts from some of the biggest phone companies and manufacturers.

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."

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