A German software company says it’s developed an application that turns the Apple iPhone or the iPod Touch into the equivalent of a smart card for securing access to a desktop or notebook computer.
Charismathics, a player in cryptographic middleware, said it expects its iEnigma software to receive approval by Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) for distribution on the company’s App Store by late April.
The $9.99 application software is currently in a beta test phase. Charismathics also plans to release a version for Windows Mobile devices later this year. The company says it’s targeting both small-to-midsized businesses as well as larger enterprise companies.
The iEnigma application is designed to turn the iPhone into the second half of a two-factor
authentication setup. In two-factor authentication, data or applications are secured using a pair of protection methods. For instance, a typical scheme could involve a password coupled with a hardware-based means of authentication, like a smart card or security token.
In this case, once users log into iEnigma, the software turns the iPhone or iPod Touch into the second factor. The result, Charismathics said, is a low-cost way for businesses to enable better security.
“How many laptops have been lost or stolen at airports each year — hundreds of thousands? iEnigma automatically secures access to your laptop,” Charismathics CEO Sven Gossel told InternetNews.com. “And we enable features that most computers have that aren’t being used, like encrypting your e-mail.”
Charismathics also makes clever use of the iPhone’s accelerometer. With the software installed and a Wi-Fi connection, users simply shake the iPhone to generate a digital key. The company said its software is compatible with Outlook, Entourage and other popular e-mail systems as well as all the leading browsers.
While analyst Roger Kay said he didn’t think iEnigma justifies the purchase price of an iPhone, he said it could be a useful, inexpensive addition to companies that already have iPhone users.
“Security is always best implemented in hardware,” Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, told InternetNews.com. “It’s a question of how much security you need. This sounds like something that could be a good, general-purpose solution. It’s another example of how the Apple ecosystem keeps extending. ”
“But I don’t know how well this will do in the U.S.,” he added. “Things like smart cards and other identity solutions are much better understood in Europe.”
Gossel said iEnigma represents a huge cost savings for companies that might otherwise deploy smart cards and smart card readers.