Friday, 12 February 2010

'Tie' by Rodd & TTP. Wining mobile phone security solution to be unveiled in Barcelona

Figures suggest that 228 mobile phones are reported stolen in the UK every hour. As handsets become increasingly sophisticated, we’re carrying more personal and business information around with us, much of it unsecured. Experts in cybercrime believe that criminals will seize on this as a new opportunity in much the same way that email and online banking spawned the ‘phishing’ phenomenon.

As part of Design Out Crime; an initiative from the Home Office Design & Technology Alliance Against Crime and the Design Council. Rodd were selected alongside 3 other agencies to Challenge the next generation of phone theft.

Partnering with TTP a technology group with a history of developing technical solutions for the GSM market our solution would focus on making stolen handsets unusable and the data inaccessible to a thief.

Before a design solution could be identified it was important to understand how a thief operates; how and why the phone is stolen, what happens immediately after theft and the extended life of a stolen mobile phone. We discovered that a stolen handset is quickly separated from it’s SIM card, reflashed, sold on (more than likely exported) and combined with a new SIM. Currently there are few barriers to stop valuable / personal data being stolen, used in identity theft or to access bank details. The challenge was apparent, create a solution that would deter a thief, negate downstream criminal activity and enable a user to protect the data on their phone.

There would be two parts to our solution; antitheft (securing the handset) and data security (protecting the data on the phone). To deter theft of the hardware we had to protect the handset and SIM, the solution: to create an inseparable bond between the two that criminals cannot break making the handset and SIM worthless to any potential thief. To prevent data theft we would encrypt the data with a user controlled 4 digit PIN, and use the same encryption system to enable a remote lock feature.

With the technology principals confirmed we began by immersing ourselves in usecases; exploring how our system could be integrated with current use patterns. Engaging with potential users we set out to understand how they valued security, what they understood as a security threat and their own potential risk. From this it quickly became evident that the winning solution would be a perfect balance between convenience, understanding and security.

The solution would have to be flexible; catering for different mobile platforms, variation between business and personal use and the value of the data on the phone allowing for perceived risk in a variety of situations.

We set about creating mobile security that that was clear, concise and visible, engaging when it needed to be and gave a reassuring presence that the system was active. By taking security from the settings menu and bringing it to the front of the interface; we raised the profile allowing the user to make their own decision as to where and when security is relevant to them.

We created tie a clear and simple brand. The strong identity gives the user a familiar visual language to follow when creating and managing their security.

The first time a phone is turned on the user is taken through a simple 1 – 2 minute setup, giving them a brief introduction to tie, security is now created and the hand set and SIM are tied. Once set up the user has no active engagement with this part of the solution other than the visibility of the logo displayed in the header bar. As part of the setup the user enters a username and password and has the ability to securely add multiple SIM cards to a list of trusted combinations.

For data security the solution was a small change to an existing process. Adding a choice at the keypad lock interface, the user would have the option to continue as normal or lock with tie. This no fuss approach gives the choice to use a PIN or not when locking their keypad. This choice would be presented every time they locked their keypad and would be controlled by a single button press; allowing them to use their judgement based on the perceived security threat at that time.

Tie is an appropriate solution that addresses a serious social issue with a simple interface behind which is a highly sophisticated and innovative technical resolution. Alongside TTP Rodd are currently looking at ways to develop the project and bring tie to market.

The working prototype will be on display from the 15th to the 18th of February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the mobile industry’s annual trade show.

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