Security for MIDlet Suites

Security for MIDlet Suites

Security in mobile devices presents many interesting and significant challenges. Mobile devices must enable users to take advantage of the applications and services provided on the Internet while still protecting them and their data.

Many parties are interested in the security of mobile devices. Network operators have a strong interest in ensuring the integrity of the data that is sent over their networks so they can provide friendly, useful, lucrative, and reliable services to their customers. Mobile device manufacturers want to create usable, useful devices that provide a compelling experience for consumers. Software developers want to tap into the large and vibrant consumer market to sell games, entertainment, and productivity applications. Consumers want a device that is simple, fun, convenient, and easy to use.

Consumers do not want to be inconvenienced, and they are generally discouraged by the presence of security mechanisms that make the devices more difficult to operate. The big challenge is to keep consumer confidence and convenience in balance. If the consumers do not believe that they can use mobile devices easily, safely, and reliably to access services, they will not use them.

To be confident users of a device, consumers need to know their responsibilities and be aware of the limits on their liabilities. They need to be confident that they are using reliable technology that will not fail or compromise their privacy or security. They need to know that the companies they deal with have confidence in the device and network, and that the transactions that they initiate are safe. They need to have confidence in knowing that their personal information will not be used in unanticipated ways. They need to know when their use of the device is costing them money. These opportunities and constraints come together in the MIDP 2.0 security model.

The MIDP Specification version 2.0 extends the sandbox security model used by MIDP 1.0. It introduces a security model that can safeguard the functions of the device that can expose the user to risk, such as the risk of incurring costs associated with wireless network use or the risk to personal privacy. The MIDP 2.0 security model is also extensible to optional APIs, such as SMS.

The MIDP 2.0 security model tries to reconcile the competing goals of security and usability. Security concerns usually require frequent checking and rechecking that an action is allowed. Improving the usability of applications usually means reducing the number of steps and choices the user needs to make. Often the users first get annoyed and then habituated to repetitious prompts, and become accustomed to responding without really reading or making a conscious choice each time. This reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of security mechanisms that ask the user to confirm each and every access of protected functions.

The MIDP 2.0 security model enables the device to enforce security policy based both on the authentication of the MIDlet suite (verification that it is genuine and has not been tampered with) and on the user choices. The device uses authentication information to define which permissions are allowed and which are delegated to the user. Only when the access permissions are delegated to the user must the implementation protect the resource by requiring an explicit confirmation from the user. This can reduce the number of prompts a user might receive, improving the effectiveness of the security mechanism.

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