Four promising IT security trends of MWC 2015

March 10, 2015

The Mobile World Congress often gladdens our heart with lots of visitors and participants who care about security. It is quite natural taking into account the event is held by the GSMA Association. This year was no exception with security being one of the main themes at the MWC 2015. Let’s see what trends Kaspersky Lab identified at the event.

MWC 2015: Four promising IT security trends

Trend #1: Security in the IoT

On Kaspersky Daily we’ve regularly written about how unexpectedly vulnerable connected devices can be because too many things are going to be connected: from refrigerators, coffee machines, TVs and microwaves to fitness bands and other wearable devices, and even drones. This flood of connected appliances can lead to unexpected consequences. Unfortunately, the majority of manufacturers and developers have very little experience in the field of IoT security.

Kaspersky Lab is not alone in its struggle against the thoughtless attitude to this problem: at MWC a great many people raised the question of connected device protection. That’s wonderful news: the sooner users and developers understand the problem the quicker we’ll see the secured world of connected devices.

Trend #2: Cryptophones

In the last two years we had numerous data leaks and other ‘breaking’ information about global eavesdropping conducted by officials, hackers, or even the kid living next door. All of this news has generated a profound demand for secured and private communication. This is why a heavily encrypted Blackphone was created (in case you missed it, last summer we published a detailed review of this cryptophone).

This year, MWC Silent Circle has unveiled a new updated Blackphone 2 and a Blackphone Plus — a security-centric tablet. Both devices run PrivatOS and are packed with different security features, including a new: a Spaces virtualization system that lets users create multiple separate ‘spaces’ for apps, data and accounts. It’s like having several separated smartphones inside one device.

Brazilian company Sikur has presented another security-minded solution called GranitePhone. Developers followed a very radical approach: the GranitePhone OS has no browser, there is no access to the phone’s camera and a user is not permitted to install any (literally — any) apps. GranitePhone can send and receive emails and SMS, make calls and browse through documents.

Encrypted communications are enabled between two GranitePhones or with iOS/Android devices running the company’s software. You can make calls to other phones as well, but they won’t be encrypted. As you can see it’s not a universal device, but a second phone for those who often work with sensitive data.

Another cryptophone presented at MWC is called a LockPhone. Together with a LockTab tablet they both come from Hong Kong. They are protected with a method of 1,024-bit device encryption that is also extended to calls, SMS and email messaging to enable secure communication (but only between two owners of LockPhones). We don’t understand why the developer calls these solutions “the First Encrypted Smartphone and Tablet,” which is untrue, of course.

Trend #3: Biometricks

Qualcomm, the world’s largest smartphone chip manufacturer, unveiled the main biometric innovation at MWC 2015. Its fingerprint recognition is no longer based on optical nor capacitive sensors. Instead, Qualcomm has adopted a new technology that uses ultrasonic waves to scan a 3D image of your finger surface.

There’s a number of reason why we believe it’s a promising innovation. First of all, it can read your fingerprint through glass, aluminum, stainless steel, sapphire, and plastics. Theoretically, manufacturers should be able to build the sensor into almost any part of a phone or tablet.

Secondly, Qualcomm also promises that new sensors will work much quicker and more accurately with fewer number of rejected swipes. It’s worth mentioning that fast recognition of fingerprint allows this technology to scan picture in dynamic and to distinguish a real finger from a cast by detecting a pulse. Besides, the new ultrasonic sensor works even if your finger is a little bit dirty or wet.

Currently there are no gadgets equipped with new Qualcomm sensors, but no doubt we’ll see them in the near future.

Good news for fans of Samsung devices: the company has finally made a switch to new fingerprint sensors. Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge have adopted new ones that do not require a swipe. Just like the iPhone, to start using a device you need to touch the sensor.

Trend #4: Tracking kids location

Many companies presented solutions for kids’ security, including child-tracking devices. There were both software solutions and stand-alone trackers that help the parents monitor the location of their children.

At MWC 2015 Kaspersky Lab presented a beta-version of a multifunctional mobile app, Safe Kids. It has a GPS tracking feature as well. If you wish, you can download it for free from Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Bonus-trend: smart sensor tags

There was an amusing presentation at this year’s MWC, thanks to an intelligent Johnnie Walker Blue Label bottle presented by a global drinks giant Diageo and Norwegian semiconductor company Thin Film Electronics, who develops smart NFC tags. The smart bottle is equipped with smart tags that can detect when the seal is broken and send this information directly to a consumer’s smartphone.

Though this demonstration may seem frivolous, the NFC tags solve serious problems. For instance, another model of tag – that is also manufactured by Thin Film Electronics – continuously monitors the temperature in which food is being stored and relays this information via NFC. Electronics are becoming cheaper day-by-day and it’s quite possible that in the near future we’ll see every milk package equipped with an intelligent tag.