It's been a long time since mobile phones were used solely as phones. Banking transactions are carried out, event tickets purchased, and music consumed — all on mobile phones. But the variety of applications also means increased security risks for users. To protect confidential data (and thus, safeguard privacy), the SEPIA (Secure, Embedded Platform with advanced process Isolation and Anonymity capabilities) EU project has been established.
More and more people are using mobile phones for an increasing number of purposes and the cell phone has become a personal electronic assistant for all occasions.
"People play games on the mobile, buy concert tickets, and use it as a key for access control. Data is stored at every step to allow activities to be assigned to particular phones and thus to specific people," said Kurt Dietrich of the Institute of Applied Information Processing and Communication Technology (IAIK) of Graz University of Technology in Austria.
It’s especially difficult to protect the privacy of individual persons. "When a person executes an access control using a mobile, it is enough to know that the person has permission to enter the building. More information about that person and his or her further activities are not required and should remain confidential," Dietrich added.
In the framework of SEPIA, Graz University of Technology researchers in cooperation with leading companies in the field (including Infineon, ARM, and brightsight) are aiming to increase security for future generations of mobile phones. "Confidential data protection is [the] number one priority at all development levels — from design to the finished product," Dietrich said. Focus of the research at IAIK is on anonymity-preserving processes. Furthermore, the researchers want to develop new security mechanisms for mobile phone processors of the future.
SEPIA will focus on three topics: Security enhancements of mobile platforms, cryptography, and privacy protecting technologies, as well as delta-evaluation and certification methodologies. A major objective of SEPIA is to define a next-generation security-architecture for mobile and embedded systems, addressing topics such as isolated execution space, virtualization, and secure protection of confidential data. Moreover, privacy protecting mechanisms, based on strong cryptography and time- and cost-efficient certification processes, reducing the time from design to market, will be researched in the project. In SEPIA, establishing trustworthiness is seen as an asset that is considered right from the design phase rather than being addressed as add-on feature. SEPIA will include theoretical and practical research as well as the development of proof-of-concept prototypes. All these efforts will result in the SEPIA reference platform which will be disseminated via demonstrators and as an open platform for further research and product development.