Karsten Nohl, a Dutch hacker alarmed the mobile industry this week with a methodology and claims that the theoretical risk of a mobile phone being hacked will become real within the next six months. Pundits responded with claims that this was simply repetition of long standing fears which had yet to be proven by a practical attack. Clearly the track record of the GSM standard that provides encryption for voice calls has stood the test through a decade of alarms and false claims and in this respect the trust accrued to the telecoms sector has been substantial. Especially when compared to the computing, a sector of industry that was caught napping on the dangers not just to security but privacy in the online world.
However, this news does raise a broader trust issue for the industry as telecoms becomes more pervasive and converged with traditional computing platforms and models of usage. Telecoms and mobile devices particularly have enjoyed a close personal trust with consumers and often seem to be an extension of the users emotions and lifestyle such as the Blackberry and iPhone sucesss. The literally multi-billion dollar question is can the industry keep it’s particular sense of personal trust as it evolves and develops new models and ecosystems? Indeed the importance of this question grows as the telecoms increasingly becomes a service beyond voice. Already via voice CellCrypt identified that 79 percent of workers discuss confidential issues by mobile every few days so imagine the challenge to security when sophisticated data services become the norm. In this respect the industry is going to need to develop a culture of aftercare and ongoing customer education that has stood the computing industry well in addressing trust issues in recent years.
In doing this I do believe that a good starting point is clarification of what it has done right for so long, what exactly are these trust assets and how can they be developed as the sectors evolves to meet these new challenges. I would love to hear from anyone with any data or opinions on these issues.