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Shall we secure the internet?

Week 38, 2008

As of now, the internet is considered "Big, Open and Unsafe". The smart card industry, or better, the smart secure devices industry, has built its success through bringing security in various environments: mobile communication, payment, identity, access control, conditional access, etc…. In all of these environments, the smart card is the undisputed tool to bring security in an insecure world. Smart secure devices bring a combination of security, ease of use and privacy.

No one doubts there is a need for securing the internet. The figures of fraud, impersonation, phishing, etc…. speak by themselves to describe the need for security on the internet. For instance, just in 2007, 1.5 trillion spam emails were sent, fake profiles on instant messengers represented 1 out of 3 users, web mail IDs are not verifiable, URLs are not verifiable opening the way to all phishing attempts.

The smart card industry has been trying for long to position itself as the provider of internet security. This positioning is even at the core of Olivier Piou, Gemalto CEO, strategy. So why hasn't this happened for internet security yet? Maybe because the internet is a far more complex world than all the other environments the smart card has succeeded in. The multiplicity of players in the internet world makes it harder for our industry to bring a "one-size-fits-all" solution as it has done successfully in other environments. The smart card has to overcome a series of challenges to provide a successful solution for internet security: it has to demonstrate it is platform independent, it must be easy to use, and connectivity independent, it must provide a personal ID, but never disclose too much information, and it must be losable.

Maybe, the best opportunity of the moment for our industry to become central in internet security is the evolution of internet access. In the near future the primary means of access to the internet will be a mobile phone, or better a smart phone. And guess what? There is already a secure device in it: the SIM card.

Thierry Spanjaard
Chief Editor
Smart Insights