Mobile security jumps into focus ahead of Mobile World Congress

by Doug Drinkwater

February 22 2013

Mobile devices were in abundance at the London exhibition
Mobile devices were in abundance at the London exhibition

It’s a sign of the times that the supporting media event to this month’s Mobile World Congress saw the best European start-ups talk less about flashy consumer gadgets and more about how businesses and schools should be locking down sensitive data.

At the London event ahead of next week's Mobile World Congress, a number of smaller vendors were afforded the smallest of opportunities – a mere 60 seconds -- to pitch their business and their plans for MWC.

As you would expect, these pitches tackled everything concerning mobile.  Some vendors talked ecommerce solutions, others skin sensors, mobile health, audio equipment and 3D gaming.

Perhaps the least sexy topic, mobile security, attracted not only the most vendors (four to be specific) but also piqued the most interest among the press on hand.

These security solutions varied from secure mobile passwords (employing a picture-based authentication not dissimilar to that on Windows 8) to fraud prevention, but there were two vendors in particular which focused specifically on improving data security on smartphones and tablets.

The first of these was BlackBelt, an eight-year-old company now boasting a secret software algorithm that can wipe all data from hard disk drives and solid state drives - a useful tool for enterprise IT departments.

For now, BlackBelt is focused on smartphones (tablet support is coming within ‘six to eight weeks’), but the rise of mobility in the workplace had CEO Ken Garner highlighting how tablets and smartphone change where data is now saved in larger businesses.

“Two laws have intersected to change how you wipe data from PCs,” said Garner.

“Wiping data was traditionally from hard disk drives but now with the mobile world it works a different way.

"These smartphones and tablets use solid-state drives, but remote wiping doesn’t work on SSDs.”

Not that Garner or BlackBelt is complaining. The firm, a small outfit in the north of England but with global business ambitions, says its Datawipe solution will delete any remaining data from HDD and SSDs, a useful tool considering on-chip protection algorithm Wear Levelling often tries to retain data on flash drives.

With that in mind, Garner says that its solution will appeal not only to device recyclers but also to the large corporations dealing with the growing number of mobile devices in the workplace.

“They [corporations] want to sanitize the phones going out but also the [new] phones coming in. They want to make sure there is no key logger on there or any inappropriate material.”

The BlackBelt CEO believes that big businesses, schools and healthcare establishments would be interested in using its solution which at present comprises workflow software, USB cable, and more for a cost of around £1,500 (roughly $2,300). The company also has an assortment of security apps for consumers.

Making apps safter and other security features

The need for mobile security solutions was also drummed up across the other side of the room by MobiFlock, another British start-up but with the added twist of aiming to making apps safer to use for children.

That was the company’s pitch in a nutshell but there is actually much more behind the company on closer inspection.

Company executives explained how MobiFlock can be used by parents, individuals, educators and even businesses for controlling how devices, and the content on those devices, can be used.

Offering a collection of apps (MobiFlock My Life, MobiFlock My Child and MobiFlock My Business) across iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry, MobiFlock can deny access to websites and other content, limit native device features like disabling the camera and remotely wipe data or employ geo-fencing.

All of this makes it a serious potential business tool, with the company apparently set on establishing partnerships with some of the big mobile manufacturers.

“We’re specifically talking with BlackBerry and the Z10 and we’re also hoping to talk to all other major operators in the future too," said a company spokesman.

And with that the show drew to a close. It is almost certain that these folk will be lost in the sea of big brands like Samsung, LG and others at Mobile World Congress next week, but at least they’ve shown that mobile security isn't limited to large enterprise mobility management (EMM) vendors.

Doug Drinkwater is the International Editor of TabTimes and is based in London, England.

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