Spansion puts mobile phone security right in with data

Spansion Inc., a flash memory chip maker, plans to fight mobile phone viruses and data theft with new security technology it puts right into its chips, the company said Tuesday.

The company plans to beef up protection by adding a mobile security chip to the embedded flash memory chip package it offers to wireless handset makers, the Spansion Multi Chip Package. The chip uses a range of encryption, authentication, random number generation and other security features to ward off hackers, malware or thieves attempting to hijack a financial transaction or a user's service. It's also designed to back up data for speedy recovery.

The new chip will add a level of security to devices because it's in with the memory, exactly where user data is stored. It's also a hardware system, not a layer of software added onto a handset, which is generally more difficult for thieves to tap into. Spansion says the hardware protection spans multiple zones of memory, such as separate, secured areas for the user, the operator, for content rights objects, and for the handset manufacturer.

If the chips stand up to time and hacker tests, they could encourage users to make more financial transactions with their handsets, including Internet purchases, attending auctions on eBay Inc., or using their handset like a credit card.

The company said its security chip can be used with any OS or chipset, and a wide price range of handsets. It will be available to handset developers in the first half of next year.

The security chip will include a mechanism to lock a mobile phone's SIM card and render a phone useless if it's stolen. It will also ensure a phone continues to operate even if it has been infected with a virus by preserving the OS and data inside. For users looking for their mobile phone to replace their wallet, the chip will also add security for financial transactions and contactless payment in stores.

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