£100k to ‘crime-proof’ mobiles


The Home Office has put up £400,000 for software and technology designers to develop ‘crime-proof’ mobiles.

In conjunction with the Design Council, the ‘Mobile Phone Security Challenge’ will offer £100,000 each to four designers to come up with new ways of securing handsets, the data they contain, and their future use as electronic ‘wallets’ when m-commerce technology takes off in the UK. 

Applicants are asked to submit a tender outlining how they will approach the challenge and identifying any relevant experience they may have. The deadline is May 22. See www.designcouncil.org.uk/crime.

Once selected by a panel of experts, the teams will be allocated money for research and development from the £400,000 fund, and spend six months developing designs and working prototypes in they key areas of  making handsets and the data they contain harder or less desirable to steal, or making future m-commerce transactions secure and fraud proof.

They will be tasked with producing market-ready applications which may include hardware and software for handsets, new services and other innovations, which will be showcased and promoted by early 2010, with a view to their widespread and rapid take-up by the market. 

A recent survey found that 80 per cent of people carry information on their mobile phone handsets that could be used by criminals to commit fraud – and 16 per cent keep their bank details saved on their phone, yet only 4 in 10 people currently lock their mobiles using a PIN. Such data includes website passwords, bookmarks, emails, personal security data and locations or addresses on map applications. 
Design Council chief executive David Kester said: “The cleverer and cooler we make our products, the more they expose us and our children to serious crime such as mugging, identity theft and bank fraud.  That’s why we are calling on our great well-spring of designers, technologists and manufacturers to help us all get ahead of the next crime wave and be more creative than the criminals.

“I am particularly delighted to launch this mobile phone security challenge with the Technology Strategy Board.  It is the first example of our new partnership which aims to harness the full potential of the UK’s design and technology base for economic and public good. In this case, it’s good news for industry, and even better news for tens of millions of honest mobile phone users.’

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said: “We are committed to tackling and preventing crime in all forms. The rapidly developing nature of mobile technology means we must continue to work together to eliminate any future opportunities for criminals to profit from mobile phone theft. It is vital that as new technologies are developed key safeguards are incorporated at the drawing board stage.”