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All Eyes May Be on Security in Samsung's S5

All Eyes May Be on Security in Samsung's S5

Mobile device security is a major issue for the enterprise as the BYOD trend gains momentum, because personally owned mobile devices increasingly are being used to access enterprise systems and cloud-based data, according to the Cloud Security Alliance. The leading mobile threat is data loss from lost, stolen or decommissioned devices, it found. Information-stealing mobile malware is second.

By Richard Adhikari
01/09/14 12:58 PM PT

Rumors that Samsung will include iris-recognition technology in its forthcoming Galaxy S5 smartphone, widely expected to be launched in April, were given a boost on Thursday through a Bloomberg interview of Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung Mobile.

People are "fanatical" about iris recognition technology and Samsung is "studying the possibility," Lee said, but he would not confirm its implementation in the S5.

The S5 will be paired with the successor of the company's Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which has not fared as well as hoped.

The chances of Samsung's implementing iris-scanning technology are fairly good as smartphone manufacturers keep introducing innovative security features in their ongoing battle for market share.

"We're seeing a race among manufacturers, particularly between Samsung and LG in Android phones, which are inherently secure, and between Apple, BlackBerry and Samsung on the others," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. "Samsung has been particularly aggressive."

The Galaxy S5's Rumored Specs

The S5 reportedly will have a metal frame, unlike the plastic mold used in earlier models.

There is speculation that Samsung is working on a Quad HD screen, which has a display resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels -- four times as many as in the 720p HDTV video standard.

Samsung reportedly began production of a 5.25-inch QHD display for the S5 back in December.

The S5 will trail behind China's 6-inch Vivo Xplay 3S smartphone, which was released with a QHD display in December.

Everything Old Is New Again

Reports that Samsung might implement iris scanning in the Galaxy S5 first surfaced in October.

Patentbolt in November published Samsung's patent application on iris scanning, which gave credence to the rumors.

Many Asians do not have sufficient melanin pigments in their eyes to use a general flash for illumination in iris scanning, so a separate built-in infrared ray source of illumination is necessary, Patentbolt said. That would increase the weight and bulk of a mobile device.

Samsung's technology gets around this by using a proximity sensor.

The company's patent application illustrates a smartphone that includes standard features such as a camera, light-emitting and a light-receiving units, and a power supply. It also includes an illustration of an iris-sensing unit.

The input unit may be a soft button, a virtual button, or an icon of a touchpad or touchscreen; a keyboard; a microphone; or an action or gesture sensor.

Samsung's patent was filed in the U.S. in Q2 2013, and in Korea one year earlier, Patentbolt said.

Samsung and Smartphone Security

Samsung's earlier effort to provide security for mobile devices in the enterprise, the Knox service, has been troubled.

Initially scheduled to be preloaded with the Galaxy S4, which was unveiled in March, Knox's launch was pushed back to the end of 2013. Then security researchers discovered a critical vulnerability in the devices that made it easy to intercept data communications.

That caused the U.S. Department of Defense, which had approved Knox-based mobile devices for deployment on its networks in May, to investigate the claims of vulnerability.

"Samsung has this nasty habit of bringing out stuff before it's ready, like the Galaxy Gear, so the first implementation [of iris recognition] will likely be problematic," Enderle remarked. "It will either be insecure or won't work properly."

If it's not properly implemented, he warned, "you might not be able to get into your own phone."


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