Mobile Security Means Business

The proliferation of portable computing is fueling the need for mobile embedded security solutions. By enabling new applications while overcoming the risk of thefts and infringements, mobile security has become a vital requirement for both consumer and enterprise applications. Mobile applications such as music, video, TV, commerce, authentication, gaming and health care are just a sample of the applications that depend on the availability of robust security solutions.

Regrettably, legacy security methods have not been able to meet the cost, performance, power consumption and robustness requirements of mobile computing. A new approach, comprising a complete system solution combined with hardware-based infrastructure, has fast become the best practice in today’s burgeoning market for mobile security.

Embedded security is essential for mobile phones, flash memory, game consoles, PNDs (personal navigation devices), digital & IP TV as well as MIDs (mobile Internet devices), UMPCs (ultra-mobile PCs) and PMPs (personal media players). For each of these devices and their associated applications we will discuss a few examples of the business drivers influencing the need for all-encompassing security solutions. We will show how only through a comprehensive system approach, intertwined with the device’s hardware layer, can an effective solution be provided for the development, advancement and deployment of innovative applications.

Mobile Phones

The major mobile phone manufacturers typically grant exclusive network operator rights as part of their overall business model, with the mobile operators subsidizing the cost of the device in return. In order to guarantee this exclusivity, the mobile phone manufacturers utilize a SIM (subscriber identity module) Lock mechanism — a capability built into phones in order to restrict their use to certain providers or locations.

Always the target of hackers, SIM Lock has been made even less reliable with the introduction of the open operating system. The devices have become easy prey for even the most junior hackers, who effectively break the exclusivity agreement and pocket the subsidy. Conversely, with the use of hardware-based security, the SIM Lock mechanism can be reinforced, significantly increasing the attack complexity and cost for hackers.

Portable Devices

MIDs, UMPCs, PNDs, PMPs and all hand-held mobile devices are becoming increasingly popular. An unfortunate byproduct of their widespread use is illegal device cloning. With handset cloners becoming more sophisticated, device manufacturers’ key intellectual property is at risk. Currently, manufacturers deploy a wide range of software obfuscation techniques to protect their assets.

Regrettably, software-based obfuscation cannot serve as a complete safeguard against the proficiency and capability of today’s computer hackers. Only hardware-pinned secure boot and hardware-based security provide the required level of protection along with defense mechanisms that prevent device cloning in these portable devices.

Digital & IP TV

The improved resolution and superior sound quality of High Definition TV (HDTV) have redefined the television viewing experience. The penetration of HD content is growing rapidly and is readily available on a wide variety of storage and broadcast media.

Its high quality and valuable content further escalates the threat of theft and unauthorized duplication, with disastrous consequences for content owners. HDTV mandates a reliable and robust security solution for secure content under all consumption scenarios. Combined with the very high throughput requirements of HD streaming, it is once again clear that only hardware-based security can provide an effective solution for both the performance and robustness requirements of HDTV.

Flash Drives and Storage Cards

USB flash drives and storage cards have revolutionized the way we use and store data, enabling portable, affordable and reliable storage for consumers and corporations. With their popularity and increased capacity comes the need to protect the stored data from loss and theft.

Moreover, in order for flash memory to penetrate new markets, such as mobile devices and health care, and serve as a platform for new applications, such as preloaded content and commerce, a built-in hardware security system is a must. The combination of flash storage capabilities with reliable smartcard-like security has enabled the storage of medical records, banking information, sensitive data backup and a range of other applications with untold potential. This transformation of flash memory from basic storage into a sophisticated mobile computing platform will further expand its adoption as a seamless, convenient and efficient solution with unlimited potential.

In Conclusion

Without embedded security, mobility would not be the same. The traditional software-only approach to security has not been effective in providing the level of protection that is needed in the age of mobile computing. Only the combination of a hardware-based solution with an overall system approach can overcome the challenges posed by this burgeoning industry, driving the development of new applications and opportunities.

Whether it be mobile phones, flash memory or a range of other mobile devices and applications, embedded security solutions play a critical role. Not only have such security solutions driven the development of these markets, but they are also essential to their continued growth and expansion.

Edo Ganot is the executive vice president of business development at Discretix, a leading provider of embedded security technology for mobile devices and flash memory storage.

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