Security tools safeguard mobile business, consumers, kids

SAN DIEGO – Constant connectivity exposes mobile devices to clandestine cesspools of malware, spyware, Trojan horses, and other pests. Security vendor McAfee’s collection of unique mobile malware samples hit 1.5 million by mid-2012, and researchers expect to collect 100 million samples by year end.

Security experts warn of public wi-fi networks as breeding grounds for keyboard loggers, password sniffers and other eavesdroppers, and so mobile security measures. So security tools drew some attention at the MobileFocus media event accompanying the CTIA MobileCon here.

Several are longstanding players in security tools, such as Symantec’s Norton line, which is introducing a hotspot protection that is essentially a private VPN, and Strikeforce Technologies, which is moving its anti-keylogging and other security functions to mobile devices. NQ Mobile , which started with anti-malware products specifically for mobile devices, is adding to its mobile security tools.

Strikeforce goes mobile

This longtime security software developer is bringing its keystroke encryption and password vault technology to mobile devices.

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Strikeforce's password vault

For example, the caching that makes the iPhone’s autocomplete function so efficient also leaves users vulnerable to password hijacking, says Ram Pemmaraju, cofounder and developer of the MobileTrust technology. The MobileTrust software clears the cache so a stolen smartphone won’t reveal passwords, and supplies a secure on-screen keyboard that automatically encrypts input and doesn’t retain it in a cache.

The software also encrypts keystrokes to fight keylogging malware, stopping theft of passwords and other data; and includes both a password generator to create stronger passwords than most users do, and a password vault function to store the passwords.

StrikeForce also markets the GuardedID anti-keylogging keystroke encryption technology, and the ProtectID out-of-band authentication, which run on Windows and Mac systems. Some of that technology was implemented in its first smartphone products, says George Waller, executive vice president and cofounder.

MobileTrust runs on iOS devices (4.2 and newer versions) and Android (2.3 and newer). Both versions are priced at $14.95 and will ship this fall.

NQ Mobile: Unique security issues

NQ Mobile already markets one of the earliest anti-malware apps, but is expanding its selection to apps that address unique security issues. The newest app imposes parental control on young uses of mobile devices; another, now available for the iPhone as well as Android, provides a double-door vault to protect images on a mobile device.

The NQ Family Guardian offers several levels of security. At its surface, it provides a simple screen with one-touch “check in” and “call parents” functions; the “check in” might be used for a teen to alert parents that she had arrived at a destination without having to actually do something as uncool as call or text home. For parents, a GPS option can fact-check the kid’s claim.

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NQ Family Guardian parental controls

But the next level of parental controls provides a selection of other ways to monitor a kid’s mobile habits, including a browser blocker to ban certain URLs, an app filter, schedule controls to prevent phone use during specified periods (except for the “phone home” button), and even a function that tracks usage. Parents can set and monitor all the functions from a web site on any device; the client app runs on android, says Kim Titus, who acknowledges that the tool may be one only a parent will appreciate.

But 58 percent of kids aged 13 to 17 have their own smartphone, the company points out; and while parents may appreciate the digital tether, they also want to keep tabs on the kids’ mobile habits.  The client app is available as a free download on Google Play; the monitoring functions are provided through a web service at http://www.nq.com/familyguardian. It’s available for a 30-day trial, and subscriptions begin at $34.99 yearly.

NQ Mobile Vault lets you automatically save photos and videos to a private album inside a password-protected vault, which is especially helpful if a device is lost or stolen. The Vault app is cleverly masked; it initially opens as a camera app, but pointing the camera at a solid surface summons the log-in screen. The app also automatically photographs anyone who enters the wrong password into Vault.

First available for Android, NQ Mobile Vault for iPhone is also on iTunes. The functions are sold separately, but are now available as a bundle for $1.99.

Norton’s portable shield

Norton Hotspot Privacy, from security firm Symantec, provides a simple private VPN that encrypts login information and other data to give laptops security on a public network, which might otherwise be vulnerable to “sniffing” that captures keystrokes or other hijacking methods. About half of those using public Wi-Fi networks pass personal information such as e-mail or social networking information without securing it, Norton representatives point out.

The client is downloadable from Norton’s site and runs on Macs and Windows systems; an Android version is in development for release by the end of the year, says Mark Kanok, product manager. A single license supports up to five devices, and a user may subscribe for $2.99 a day, $19.99 a month, or $49.99 a year.

SecureAuth addresses the enterprise

For the enterprise, SecureAuth showed SecureAuth IdP for Mobile, a management program that applies a company’s standard security policies to mobile applications, regardless of the device. It provides two-factor authentication and single sign-on functions to access corporate sites, but does not require client software. Representatives say it can be used to secure any mobile application, but allows an enterprise to enforce its existing security policies and track access.

SecureAuth IdP for Mobile is available in a free demonstration kit that supports up to three mobile applications. A demo is available at SecureAuth IdP Mobile Demo.

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