2015 / 15 September

1 Phone To Rule Them All, Should You Be Worried?

1phone

I love my iPhone. My friends might even say I get a little crazy eyed and panicky when my precious it’s not firmly glued to my hand. I’m what you might call the ideal Apple cult member… err … customer. Well, up to a certain point.It’s no secret that Apple, Samsung, and other smartphone manufactures would love to see their devices become the singular platform for managing your digital life. And to a large extent, they are succeeding. Convenience drive adoption! But is it a good idea?

With the launch of Apple Pay, Apple has firmly stepped into the arena of managing the security of some of your most sensitive data and you can bet they are planning to offer other secure data services in the near future. Samsung and the Android community, while more fragmented, are certainly pursuing similar goals – each wanting to become more firmly entrenched in your day-to-day life. I’ll be the first to say that I’m immediately attracted to the convenience of carrying only one device, a smaller wallet, and fewer credit cards. Everything I care about on one device, secured by a long pin number, or better yet, my fingerprint. It sounds fantastic but you’ve probably already guessed that I’ve got some concerns or I wouldn’t be wasting time writing this blog.

Let’s start with a simple analogy. Would you keep all of your most valuable possessions, money, financial documents, etc. inside your car and then hide the keys with the car? Ok, I agree, it’s probably a weak analogy but the point is that storing your valuable data along with the keys that protect them in the same physical location is simply asking for trouble. No matter how well you hide the keys and your data, hackers with enough perseverance, will eventually find a chink in the armor that can be exploited. It’s a fact that has been proven time after time. People often forget that the same acceleration of technology that drives the many new personal conveniences we enjoy also puts better tools in the hands of the criminals.

It is, and always will be, an arms race.

Ok, if you’ve followed me this far you’ve got to be saying, “Mark, I get the message. What is it that you’re proposing?” In a second, I’m going to share with you what I think is a better solution but the short answer is don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Like I said, I love my smartphone and it’s an ideal device for storing a tremendous amount of my personal information. But, when it comes to my most sensitive data – credit cards, financial accounts, detailed identity information – it’s a risky proposition. While smart phones are incredible tools, they are also high-theft items, easily damaged, prone to a short battery life and are far too easy to exploit.

So what about that better solution?

Before I go further, let me fully disclose that I work for a startup that has an innovative product, which we believe helps solve the above problem along with other critical cyber security issues facing much of the mobile world. If you want to hang-up your browser now, I completely understand but I promise you this is not a heavy sales pitch. Stick around for a few more paragraphs and I think you’ll find it interesting.

The product we are building can be best described as a fully functional computer that fits into the same form factor as a credit card with:

  • A high-performance processor
  • Hardware encryption
  • Support for multi-factor biometrics
  • Large amounts of flash memory
  • Large capacity rechargeable battery
  • Secure Bluetooth/NFC wireless interface

Whew! That’s a lot of technology and a lot of capability packed into a thin piece of plastic that fits in your wallet. Called the BluStor CyberGate smart card, it’s designed to address a variety of secure computing needs tied to authentication, authorization, and secure data storage. So, how does it specifically address the problem discussed above?

The CyberGate smart card is designed to be an ultra secure companion to your smart phone or other similarly capable devices. In fact, it can communicate with any device that supports NFC, Bluetooth, or existing smart card readers. That means it can integrate with the vast majority of mobile devices, laptops, tablets, Point-of-Sale systems, or even employee badge readers. Using on-card multi-factor biometric authentication, it is capable of protecting sensitive data using any combination of fingerprints, voice, facial, iris, and handwriting recognition. On-card biometric verification is no easy task and was only recently made possible by advances in chip technology that has allowed us to squeeze the computing power and storage required into the thin guts of a smart card.

Leveraging the capabilities of your smart phone to capture your biometrics, the CyberGate card seamlessly validates your identity directly on the card without ever being removed from your wallet. Your phone is simply used as the input device. CyberGate performs this function without ever needing to be connected to the Internet, so it’s fully operational even in a non-connected environment. Perhaps your at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic or perhaps you’re in a location where you simply don’t trust who might be attempting to eavesdrop on your data connection.

Sensitive data is encrypted and safely stored directly on the CyberGate card, keeping it separate from your smart phone. It does this seamlessly by integrating with an application running on your phone that we call the GateKeeper. In reality, it can integrate with any external application using our API, making it a truly open platform. For example:

  • Want to write a plugin that integrates with your corporate e-mail system and provide a private encrypted email solution? No problem.
  • Want to build a plugin to seamlessly encrypt and decrypt Microsoft Office documents using biometrics. No problem.

CyberGate is designed to be a flexible and adaptable platform. We’ve tried to make it “future proof” because we know we can’t possibly think of every potential application.

Let’s step outside the box a bit and think about some of the possibilities. Imagine a world where smart phones function more like generic appliances. That line of thinking isn’t going to make me popular with Apple, but hey, we’re just dreaming, right? With the brains and muscle in the phone, all my important data is stored on the CyberGatecard, including my software SIM, favorite applications, contacts, email, etc. You can think of it as your own private mobile cloud. That means I can quickly change phones (perhaps borrow my friends phone) and it effectively becomes my device while it’s paired to my CyberGate card. A similar paradigm could be applied to the use of laptop and desktop computers.

Ok, back the word of today and the security of the data on my smart phone. The bottom line is that CyberGate enables you to maintain a level of secure separation between your most sensitive data and the mobile world that you simply don’t get by using your phone alone. Supporting a multitude of biometrics, your data is protected in a way that is far more secure yet easier to access — forget passwords and say hello to biometrics! You get the incredible convenience of your smart phone plus the additional security of a solution specifically designed to protect your digital life.

If you want to know more, you can check the video clips and details on the BluStorwebsite.

If you valued this article and want more, please hit the ‘like’ button and also share via your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook social media platforms. I encourage you to join the conversation or ask questions so feel free to add a comment on this post.

You can also find me on twitter at @NewFrontierCIO for more commentary on the frontiers of technology, leadership, space exploration, and science.

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