RealTime IT News

Vodafone Tests Digital Security on Mobiles

The mobile network operator is to undertake the first mobile electronic signature trial to take place in the UK. Will this give consumers the confidence to conduct online transactions on the hoof?

Working with the DTI's Radiocommunications Agency, Vodafone is to run a trial of digital security technology on mobile phones starting in April. Staff from the agency will use a Siemens C35i GSM digital mobile phones to complete and electronically sign their travel forms while away from the office for the purposes of the trial.

Vodafone is using SmartTrust wireless public-key infrastructure software for the digital encryption, running RSA algorithm with 1024 bit encryption. The trial will test whether mobile phones with in-built smartcards are the right platform for the cryptographic software.

"Using information contained on their SIM smartcard, Vodafone customers will have the potential to use their mobile device whenever and wherever they currently use their signature. Whereas today we write cheques, pay by credit card or debit card, sign mortgage or stock trading contracts...in the future these transactions could all be completed using just your mobile device," said Paul Donovan, MD of Vodafone UK. To access the signing keys, which are securely stored within the phone's SIM card, the user types in a PIN.

SmartTrust's encryption technology is compatible with current generation SAT+2 phones and WAP handsets as well as 3G phones and services.

Colin Smith, Director of Global Accounts at SmartTrust adds, "Digital signature technology overcomes many of the security fears surrounding online transactions. With a digital signature users can authenticate themselves and secure transactional information over a mobile network.

Where there is a legal infrastructure to support them, these digital signatures are also admissible in a court of law, further protecting consumer rights." This is a view backed up by the Minister for Small Business and E-Commerce, Patricia Hewitt,

"As mobile penetration reaches new heights, the latest developments in mobile technology will change the way we use our mobile devices...this innovative trial [...] will demonstrate how electronic signatures could become part of our everyday lives."