Industry rallies to identify trusted lockdown standards

The mobile phones being sold on the shelves during the 2006 holiday season should be a lot more secure than last year’s crop, thanks to a new mobile security specification that is expected to be released in the first half of 2006.

The specification is being developed by the Trusted Computing Group (TCG), an industry association backed by mobile vendors such as Motorola, Nokia and Samsung Electronics. The TCG has already created standards for PCs, servers and networks designed to enable secure computing.

Recently the TCG released a number of “use cases” that define the areas that the TCG’s mobile standards are expected to cover. These documents discuss concerns such as locking down phones so they are more difficult to use when lost or stolen, managing software updates and patches, and enabling secure payments via mobile devices.

Still, the hard work of actually defining the mobile specification remains to be done, according to Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates who serves on the TCG’s advisory council.

“They’re basically saying that they’re working on it,” he said of the TCG. “They’ve defined the scope of their mission and a timetable for completing it, but they haven’t defined the specifications.”

The TCG expects to have a publicly available mobile phone specification ready in the first half of 2006. This means that devices supporting the specification should begin to emerge by the end of this year, Kay said.

The first mobile phones built with this security technology should be less accessible without proper authorization. As more infrastructure is built to support the TCG standards, phones would become more resistant to mobile viruses and other forms of abuse, Kay said.

As mobile phones become even more secure, they could evolve into a kind of electronic wallet that could be used to authenticate buyers and sellers in online transactions, he said.

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