Feeds

Vodafone Germany looks to provide end-to-end encryption with SIM signatures

Emails, docs, VPN connections signed, encrypted by the SIM

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

German SIM card manufacturer G&D has announced that it will be supplying Vodafone Germany with an end-to-end security system based on the phone SIM.

Emails, documents and VPN connections are signed and encrypted by the SIM so that the user doesn’t have to enter a password or use a security token. The service will not be offered to individual subscribers but will be available through corporate and government sales.

It is available now for Android phones, with BB10 and Windows Phone planned, but iOS will be locked out as it does not provide the necessary access to the firmware.

The SIM integrates with a layer of the software which in turn uses the native handset apps for email and VPN access to corporate networks. All keys are held on the SIM card. Secure voice will follow.

Something Apple DOESN'T have...

Security as a service is a great attraction for mobile phone companies as there is a level of protection they can offer which is not afforded by Over The Top players. A telco has full access to signalling information and so can spot spoofed CLIs (calling line identifiers), the location a call is made from as well as mine connection data.

The GSMA has an initiative to use SIM cards and mobile phone numbers as personal identifiers. It is seen by Vodafone in particular as a way to provide value added services that cannot be done from outside the network, particularly aimed at companies with BYOD policies.

Crypto-technology does, however, fall under dual-use restrictions governed by the Wassenaar Agreement which means it can’t be exported to places where UN sanctions exist. A Vodafone Germany customer who took his phone with a crypto-SIM to one of those countries would be liable for prosecution. Ironically those are just the countries where you would probably want secure communications.

Rolf Reinema, director of security at Vodafone Germany, told The Register that while Vodafone will issue advisories, it is down to the individual company or subscriber to make sure they observe laws which govern what they take into any country they are visiting.

He did note, however, that many of the banned countries do not make the infrastructure necessary for secure calls available to visitors. A Vodafone Germany customer travelling to the UK could be required to disclose keys under The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

Under most circumstances, Vodafone does not have access to the content of the data stream, but in exceptional cases a government agency can request a legal intercept and Vodafone will provide access. I was once told by someone at a well-known telecoms company that there were three government agencies which had intercepts on Princess Diana’s phone.

No price has been given for the secure SIM solution, but the firms hint at it being reassuringly expensive (although not bad for the head). Vodafone Germany has also announced a lower cost secure voice service aimed at individual consumers using Secusmart for Blackberry 10 and has perhaps unwisely dubbed it the “Chancellor phone”.

There is a significant advantage in offering voice services through the telco rather than an over-the-top player like Counterpath, in that the mobile number can be used as the way to call both securely and insecurely depending on what bandwidth is available.

While these services are currently only available to customers in Germany, and Vodafone UK was unable to confirm any plans, it is likely that we'll see them rolled out to other territories over time. ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.