Mobile phones hold the key to internet security

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Microsoft partner Alpha Meridian has launched ‘fonelock’ web service to tackle online fraud and identity theft. Freely available to any web site, fonelock uses SMS to provide a secure alternative to usernames and passwords, and credit card ownership verification.

To use the service, users register on the fonelock web site (www.fonelock.com) linking their email addresses and (encrypted) credit card numbers to their mobile phone. When they subsequently visit a fonelock secured site, such as an online bank or e-commerce retailer, they are asked for their email address or card details which the site uses, via fonelock web services, to create a unique ‘lock’, which is displayed to the user as a lock code on the screen.

The user proves their identity by sending a text message, containing the lock code, from the mobile phone they have registered, receiving a corresponding key code text message in response. The user enters the key code onto the web site which calls fonelock to validate their credentials provided and open the lock.

Fonelock is initially available exclusively in the UK as a premium rate service, Alpha Meridian is actively working with mobile operators around the world to implement the SMS ‘handshake’ within the network and offer fonelock globally as a standard rate service.

‘The current service meets the niche requirements of secure UK sites where the 25p text message premium is justified,’ explains Stuart Loynes, marketing director, Alpha Meridian. ‘However, partnership with mobile operators is essential to the growth of fonelock and our ability to offer a fundamentally free global service.’