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Telefónica Latches on to Mobile Security

Michelle Donegan
News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2014 -- Telefónica Digital's security subsidiary Eleven Paths announced the first corporate customers for its Latch digital security lock application and unveiled plans for Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) to integrate the app into several of its own services as well as load the app onto all new mobile devices later this year.

Latch is one of the security applications created by Eleven Paths, the security company that Telefónica Digital formed in April 2013. Led by CEO Chema Alonso, Eleven Paths' remit is to create innovative security products and services. And true to the form of Telefónica Digital's un-telco-like approach to service creation, Eleven Paths behaves like a startup, according to Alonso. (See Euronews: Telefónica Forms Mobile Security Unit.)

Eleven Paths CEO Chema Alonso expounds on the Latch vision. It was dress-down Tuesday in Barcelona.
Eleven Paths CEO Chema Alonso expounds on the Latch vision. It was dress-down Tuesday in Barcelona.

At a press and analyst briefing at Mobile World Congress, Alonso explained that his company had a rapid development cycle and "zero bureaucracy" and his staff were mostly composed of software and security engineers, including "ethical" hackers and security experts with computer science PhD degrees.

The development of Latch has been rapid indeed. The app has been available as a free download for iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices since December 2013. It has recently become available for Firefox OS devices and Eleven Paths is working on a version for Blackberry.

Now, the application has been integrated into the online services offered by two Spanish universities -- the International University of La Rioja (IULR) and the University of Salamanca (USAL) -- as well as two banks in Spain -- Cajamar Caja Rural and the Cortefiel Group. There are a further 20 enterprises currently testing the application as well.

For enterprise customers, Latch will be offered for an annual subscription per user.

Latch minimizes security risks for consumers by enabling them to decide how and when their online services are available. It adds another layer of security to all of the different accounts that a user has, such as online banking, online retail, mobile services, university services or social networks. By enabling users to decide when to switch their online banking services or social network profiles on or off, they can prevent them from being used maliciously when they are not connected.

"If we reduce availability, we reduce exposure," Alonso said.

He explained that when you leave your house or apartment, you put the latch on the door. The Latch app essentially does the same thing in the digital world -- it locks a users' online services when they are not using them. The idea is that if they are not available, they cannot be broken into.

If someone does try to access an account that Latch has locked, the app sends an alert to the user.

According to Alonso, Latch can be one single point to manage all of your digital identities.

Telefónica also has big plans for Latch. Later this year, the operator said it will load the Latch app onto all new mobile devices it offers across its entire footprint.

The operator has already integrated the app into its Movistar customer portal in Spain as well as its Acens cloud services. The operator also plans to add the app to Tuenti, the Spanish social networking service.

Latch isn't the only product that Eleven Paths is working on. The company has also created the Metashield Protector, which protects documents from metadata leakage, as well as Faast, a test service designed to protect businesses from advanced persistent threats (APTs).

— Michelle Donegan, contributing editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 11:25:36 AM
Mobile Malware - the next frontier
This is great news thaht an operator is taking an active role in clamping down on mobile malware. While it's still a small percentage of cybercrime out there compared to the malware written for PCs, it's also the fastest growing segment, spiking 400% in the year according to Fortinet--and that stat is in line with report after report detailing the rise in both volume and sophistication for mobile bugs. Unsurprisingly, almost all of that is written for Android.

Up til now though it's been up to end users or device makers themselves to take care of security-- operators have kind of been absent from the conversation.

I also thought this was interesting: At MWC there launched a $629 Blackphone, which runs an Android derivative operating system called PrivateOS, running all standard Android apps, but allowing users full control over the permissions they grant. It is supplied 'unlocked,' and any future updates or patches will come direct from Blackphone and not be delayed by carriers needing to approve and deploy them (as is currently the case with standard Android phones). It comes with a two-year subscription to Silent Circle's application suite.

I can see an operator taking this or something like Samsung's Knox OS (another hardened Android platform) and creating an enterprise bundle. Seems like that would be inevitable.

User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 11:18:58 AM
Needed Security Moves
It's good to see a company eliminating bureaucracy in responding to security threats. That should help keep the company nimble, which is needed as these threats can do a lot of damage in a very short time. The quicker a company can put out security patches or other protections, the better.

User Rank: Blogger
2/27/2014 | 10:49:48 AM
the last of Telefonica Digital?
So after today's news of Telefonica's big re-org and executive shuffle, I guess we can start referring to Telefonica Digital as the business formerly known as Digital?


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