Thursday, February 27, 2014

So now we're secure. Oh, really?


Mobile World Congress closed on Thursday the way it began: with talk of identity security filling whatever void was left from the buzz surrounding Google, Samsung and the appearance of Mark Zuckerberg.

SPG Technologies grabbed early headlines as it unveiled its Blackphone, a mobile phone that the company says places user security as a priority. For the price of $629 -- plus shipping. And the phone generated early praise. Cheerleading tweets such as this from Symantec were typical.

Skeptics, though, already are pushing back against what the companies peddled to the public this week. In an interesting piece in Quartz, Leo Mirani cites posts by MattWeinberger in CITEWorld and Sebastian Anthony in ITProPortal that dispel the Blackphone – or really, any mobile phone so far – as being completely secure. Further, Mirani shows a contradiction between statements from Phil Zimmerman, one of Blackphone’s creators, to statements on the website of SPG Technologies, the company that has created the device.

Such quick rebuttals counter the work companies spent this week pushing phones and software that they say will ensure the security of the data in our mobile phones. Mobile phone companies rolled out new products featuring optical, fingerprint or audio security features.

Hong Kong-based FingerQ helped kick off the week by leading a discussion on its use of biometrics technology to ensure phone users’ safe transmission of texts, mobile payments and other activities. Biometrics, simply put, is the practice of studying how we identify others, either through behavior or some tangible piece of evidence, like a fingerprint or eye movement.

These are early days in the identity security business. Phones may never be able to provide absolute security. In the meantime, consumers will have to ask themselves if spending more than $600 is a cost worth paying for a false sense of security.

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