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Asian companies look to secure m-transactions

With the increasing potential for revenue, mobile companies, banks and carriers are heeding analysts’ advice to develop better security protocols in order to encourage mobile transactions via wireless devices such as WAP phones and handheld PDAs.

Banks and network carriers looking to security to boost m-commerce

There were about 60 million internet-enabled terminals worldwide in the year 2000, of which two thirds were WAP enabled terminals. By Nokia’s estimates , this will increase to about 200 million internet enabled terminals by the end of this year, of which 85% are WAP enabled terminals.

With such potential for revenue, mobile companies, banks and carriers are heeding analysts’ advice to develop better security protocols in order to encourage mobile transactions via wireless devices such as WAP phones and handheld PDAs.

DBS Bank launched in December 2000 its new wireless banking service, a mobile internet service based on the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), which allows users of mobile phones or other wireless devices to carry out banking transactions and access financial news and information.

DBS will be offering end-to-end security for wireless banking using the strongest ciphers available in the industry, such as the Wireless Transport Layer Security protocol (WTLS) and other proprietary encryption protocols. The end-to-end encryption uses a 128-bit key strength, which is the strongest in the market currently.

DBS said the introduction of the new wireless banking service is in line with its objective to deliver its financial products, services and tools in a way that provides customers a choice between face-to-face and remote banking, thereby bringing its customers anytime, anywhere access to banking services.

"DBS Wireless Banking is an additional delivery channel that we are opening up for our customers. As an extension to our existing online and mobile banking services, we hope to give our customers total mobility, control and banking convenience which in turn enable them to be in charge of their finances 24 hours a day" said Mr Bastari Irwan, Managing Director, E-Business Group, DBS Bank.

According to the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), the mobile phone penetration in Singapore currently is 66.3 per cent - a total of 2.1 million mobile subscribers. The opportunities afforded by WAP banking are therefore considerable. Bank of America (Asia) also recently jumped on the wireless banking bandwagon was well. With the support of Xgate from EdgeMatrix, the financial institution became the first in Hong Kong to launched WAP wireless banking service.

According to Samuel Tsien, President and CEO of Bank of America (Asia), "We can deliver our wireless banking services that are independent of bearer and back-end systems, and thus ensure full end-to-end service security to avoid any possible leak of confidential information during data transmission via a third-party system."

By accessing a WAP enabled cellphone or PDA, banking services which comprise of balance enquiry for savings, checking and multi-currency accounts; portfolio enquiry for securities and mutual fund accounts; among many others, can be accessed.

BOA customers who are using PalmOS-based PDAs are also able to access their account and the full range of banking services by visiting the bank’s website and download a copy of WAPman. WAPman, another EdgeMatrix innovation, is a mobile microbrowsers that immediately and instantly empower customers to utilize their mobile banking service. It features support for color images, location-based and multilingual capabilities, and is 128-bit secured by WTLS.

Singapore-based Oversea Union Bank (OUB) has the same idea but using a different partner. Called OUB MobileNet, the wireless banking services were launched to give their customers another choice of accessing services.

Using Oracle Portal-to-Go (now known as Oracle9i Application Server Wireless Edition) to power up MobileNet, existing HTML content for the bank's web site can be converted automatically into XML and WML, thus allowing content on the web to be readable by WAP-enabled devices such as PDA or mobile phones.

Oracle9iAS WE utilises user-based authentication for access the wireless portal. This security model complements the other security aspects already in place such as network based secure layer protocols like WTLS (Wireless Transport Layer Security).

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