Nokia wants holistic approach to security

3GSM: The Mighty Finn claims technology exists to nip the mobile security problem in the bud, as long as it is implemented in the right way

Mobile handset vendor Nokia launched the latest version of its smartphone software on Monday, and called for greater industry cooperation to combat threats to mobile security.

The third generation of Nokia's Series 60 Platform, launched on the first day of the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, includes improvements in business applications such as calendaring, synchronisation and device management, according to the company.

But the increasing popularity of smartphones -- Nokia expects to ship around 50 million such handsets this year -- has not gone unnoticed by the hacking and virus writing communities which are beginning to target the platform with malware such as Cabir and Skulls.

Nokia's chief technology officer Pertti Korhonen said the technology exists to prevent security problems affecting mobiles in the same way as the PC platform but it will require industry cooperation. He said device manufactures and operating system providers must cooperate on strategies that include ensuring that smartphone API's [application protocol interfaces] are only made available for secured applications.

"I think this is an important phenomenon and we must work our hardest to attack the problem while it is still in its infancy," he said. "The technology exists to address this but it needs to be implemented in a holistic manner to prevent any holes from emerging."

Nokia's updated Series 60 platform is based on the latest version of Symbian's operating system, OS 9, launched last week. Symbian says OS 9 includes security protection to restrict an application's ability to access data and services it shouldn't -- based on a digital signature.

"You don't want an application that says one thing and does another -- that's what Trojans do," said Peter Bancroft, Symbian's vice-president of market communications, at last week's launch.

Industry watchers claim that limited battery life could also stymie the mass appeal of smartphones. But Nokia's Pertti, said that battery life was an issue, but that it would be solved by focusing on lowering power consumption rather than waiting for dramatic improvements in battery or fuel-cell technology.