Understanding Mobile Internet Security

by Aeyne Schriber on August 1, 2011 in Mobile

In an environment where people carry their entire life with them on their mobile device data security has become an increasing concern due to the explosion of the mobile economy.  When it comes to conventional Internet connectivity there are many security applications in place due to the length of time that traditional Internet has been available to the public.

Mobile Internet security is slightly different due to the fact that the technology is a fairly new phenomenon making this type of technology vulnerable to hackers and online criminals.  When you think about it, mobile Internet was in its infancy as recent as the beginning of 2010.

So what security measures if any are currently in place for mobile Internet and how does it compare to conventional Internet security?  Well, in order to understand mobile Internet security it is first important to understand the security applications that are in place for Internet security when you use your traditional connection.

Conventional Internet Security

The traditional Internet connection that you use from your home PC is secured by applications that you deploy such as a firewall, antivirus, encryption and anti-malware programs.  These applications secure the Internet connection itself and provide protection against viruses and malware when you access the Internet.

However, when you enter sensitive information on a website such as your credit card number, this information does not have guaranteed protection by the existing security applications you have in place.  The security of the connection is now placed in the hands of the website owner.  Therefore a protocol which is known as Secure Sockets Layer or SSL is used and is a secure connection that is implemented by website owners that provides protection for your information as it is transmitted over the Internet.

Secure Sockets Layer is a protocol that utilizes a mathematical formula to provide a secure path for data to be transferred over the Internet and is layered over the typical TCP/IP protocol in your Web browser.

How SSL Offers Security:

  • Encryption:  When you enter your information into a website that deploys SSL technology your information is scrambled as it is transmitted over the Internet to prevent it from being intercepted by hackers.  With SSL encryption only you and the recipient can view the information that is sent.
  • Fingerprints:  SSL offers security for websites which is known as a data fingerprint. The fingerprint ensures that the data is secured during transmission over the Internet.  When the data passes through an algorithm it can be authenticated which identifies whether or not it has been modified during the transmission process.
  • Certification:  A Secure Sockets Layer connection allows for additional security with its capability to issue digital certificates and signatures.  The certificate is carefully formatted in a way that cannot be duplicated and authenticates the holder of the certificate.  The signature allows data to be formatted so that it can only be transmitted to one source and no other additional source.

SSL and Mobile Internet Security

Secure Sockets Layer technology is gradually being adapted to the protocol used for mobile Internet security known as Wireless Transport Layer Security or WTLS.  The reason it is important to have a general understanding of traditional Internet security as described above is because mobile Internet security uses the same SSL technologies such as encryption and data fingerprinting.

The SSL technologies are streamlined into the Wireless Transport Layer Security protocol which is added as an option to the processes for transmitting data over mobile Internet.  For example, both a mobile device and PC represent a Wireless Application Environment and when the device connects to the Internet this is known as the Wireless Session Protocol.

Once you enter information into a website this action initiates the Wireless Transaction Protocol.  This is the point where the Wireless Transport Security or WTLS is implemented to provide security for a mobile device over a wireless Internet connection.

The mobile Internet transaction is required to travel over the network of the mobile telephone provider and then the Internet as part of the path for transmission.  This is what creates questionable security when data is transmitted over this type of connection.

When the mobile user accesses a website with SSL encryption the Wireless Transport Layer Security plays a role in translating data between a mobile phone and a website with SSL taking over once the user enters the data into the website.  The SSL connection offers the encryption, data fingerprinting and digital signatures to secure data during transmission over the Internet until it reaches the appropriate destination.

Although mobile Internet security has achieved great strides with the technology described above it still has not come as far as conventional Internet security since the inception of mobile Internet and mobile devices is so recent.  It is still important to note that you should take the necessary precautions for securing your data and your identity when accessing the Internet on your mobile device but hopefully this information will provide you with a better idea of where mobile Internet security stands as of the current.

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