Only The Original “Merkelphone” Was Really Secure

The Acquisition of Düsseldorf, Germany, based Secusmart by BlackBerry Stirs New Questions About Mobile Security
Secocard & SecoWatch (PresseBox) (Zug, Kanton ZUG, ) Paschalis Papagrigoriou, renowned inventor of the microSD smartcard, an electronic gadget enhancing the security in BlackBerry devices sold by Düsseldorf based Secusmart to the German Federal Government, is fast to explain that the term "Merkelphone" which was coined by a journalist back in 2009 means nothing else but a device named "SimKo2" which was co-developed by Papagrigoriou and proved to be inaccessible due to its totally virtualized Windows Mobile operating system. It was replaced as a result of Microsoft's discontinuation of the OS. It is certainly a smart move for a Canadian manufacturer to integrate a German IT security firm in an effort to bolster its brand image.

"We have had ample reason to stop trying to make off-the-shelf smartphones or tablets really secure long ago. The simple logic behind it is that with today's operating systems, it just can't be done," Papagrigoriou explains. "If you try anyway, experts will immediately ask themselves why types of mobile devices which were banned from use in German authorities and agencies by Federal quality scrutinizers for security reasons as recently as two years ago all of a sudden are labeled secure now. The question is why should you feel safe with a handset which has a wiretap unit already on its blueprint?"

With his new product line Secocard Papagrigoriou intends to prove mobile security is possible even today as long as it is implemented on a dedicated piece of hardware. His security concept is based on the inability of a customary smartphone or tablet to identify or interpret an encrypted stream of email, chat or voice communication. As a result, even a Trojan on the mobile device or an interface in a service providers data center will be unable to intercept, tap or record.

"End-to-end encryption means there is no piece of electronics involved between the ears of two parties which can tap in on or reroute an unencrypted stream of data. But exactly this behaviour has been proven true for smartphones and tablets and it cannot be permanently removed," Papagrigoriou adds.

Secocard and its latest offspring SecoWatch, a wearable, which both provide smartcard reader functions, can use their integrated secure elements to do strong encryption and establish dedicated IP connections to a B-end device. Both devices interface over Bluetooth Smart with a standard smartphone or tablet which serves merely as network access device and is unable to understand the contents of communication streams coming from Secocard and SecoWatch.

Empelor, a development company founded by Dr. Papagrigoriou, which operates in Switzerland, Germany and Greece, has plans to broaden the scope of its multifunction security devices Secocard and SecoWatch to include secure communication, and is looking forward to customer project requests on this behalf.

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EMPELOR GmbH
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CH-6300 Zug, Kanton ZUG
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