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5 key security tools from Mobile World Congress

Amidst the smartphone hype, who's going to secure all this?

By Jimmy Nicholls

The tech agenda this week has been fixated on the smartphone, with product announcements (and, indeed, non-announcements) filling the airwaves from every company between Silicon Valley and Barcelona, home of Mobile World Congress (MWC).

Yet both cybersecurity traders and IT managers alike will likely be abstaining from the world’s love for mobiles – after all some unfortunate soul has to secure the chief executive’s new toy. So here are some announcements to cheer them up.

1. Blackphone creators Silent Circle target enterprises

When the security-focused Blackphone was launched in the wake of the Snowden leaks one store in LA sold out of its initial 10,000 unit stock in a mere 12 hours.

Following that success, its creator Silent Circle has announced details of the sequel at MWC, which appears to have been designed on a "bigger, better, more" paradigm, featuring a larger display, improved processor and generous extra helping of RAM.

Alongside the update the company said it will be aiming more towards business, with a range of encrypted communications software designed to protect those that will not give up their iPhones or Androids.

2. Samsung Galaxy S6 deluged with security offerings

Perhaps the biggest announcement at MWC, albeit hardly the most surprising, was the unveiling of Samsung’s new flagship smartphone the Galaxy S6.

Scarcely was the phone whipped out at a press conference before the security industry started pitching about how it would secure it. Intel, Blackberry and FireEye were just a few of the vendors eager to capitalise on the hype, and many will likely follow given the rise of "bring your own device" (BYOD) in the office.

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"Workers are tired of carrying two devices and companies are growing sensitive to the risks of having company assets tied to personal smartphones," said Injong Rhee, EVP of enterprise business, IT and mobile communications at Samsung.

3. Finns club together to build secure OS

Whilst Blackphone’s PrivatOS is the most famous secure operating system for mobiles, it may not hold its position in the future, at least if two Finnish firms have their way.

SSH Communications Security, which brought us the Secure Shell protocol, and Jolla, founded by former Nokia workers, will soon be launching a souped up edition of the Sailfish OS, developed by Jolla and based on Linux.

This secure OS will be aimed squarely at governments and corporations worried that their data or intellectual property will be pinched by hackers. Plans for an affordable consumer edition have also been mooted for the future.

4. Intel hypes biometric password tool

Biometrics is a much discussed topic in cybersecurity, perhaps because logging into a service using your fingerprints carries a sci-fi factor that the password just cannot match.

As such Intel Security (at this point at one with McAfee) will soon allow customers of Deutsche Telekom the opportunity to log in to multiple services through passwords, fingerprints and facial recognition technology with its security app True Key.

Mark Hocking, VP and GM of Safe Identity at Intel Security, said: "Together with Deutsche Telekom we will use an innovative solution to eliminate the pain point of passwords by offering users a simple and effective way to access their apps and devices."

5. Ecommerce firm drives secure Bitcoin transactions

Much of the attention on the future of mobile payments has been focused on Apple Pay, which last year caused many to question the future of credit cards and hard currency.

Other vendors have focused on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, with some stores around the world already using them. As such Rivetz, a payments company, announced at MWC that it is working on an open source technology that will allow Trustonic-enabled smart devices to make or take payments.

Tony Gallippi, executive chairman of BitPay, which is also working on the scheme, said: "Rivetz is delivering state-of-the-art support that will help Bitcoin be a standard, secure capability on every handset."

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