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7/26/2007
02:04 AM
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Startup Locks Down Mobile Linux

New version of mobile OS verifies apps, firmware, and encrypts data

A Linux startup today will officially launch a new, secure version of its operating system for mobile phones.

A la Mobile's Convergent Linux Platform (CLP) comes with anti-malware, device-level tamper protection, application sandboxing, and encrypted file system features.

"One of the unique things we're doing is [adding] a root of trust in the device, so that every piece of software must be verified before it executes," says Dirk Sigurdson, senior software engineer at a la Mobile.

While Symbian and Windows today dominate the mobile handset market, Linux is emerging as an alternative: According to ABI Research , around 204 million mobile phones will run on Linux by 2010.

Among the security features in the Linux mobile phone OS are a secure boot loader, which uses a digital signature to verify the kernel at startup; data encryption on all data on the device; application sandboxing, which puts unsigned apps in a separate sandbox; and a secure firmware update, which digitally signs and verifies the "bootloader" before firmware gets updated.

"All data stored in the device is encrypted. You can try to hack it or probe it, but it cannot be [hacked]," says Pauline Lo Alker, president and CEO of a la Mobile. "And the encryption key is protected and stored deep into device's CPU memory."

Lo Alker couldn't say which handset manufacturers will run a la Mobile's secure Linux OS yet. "We are in the thick of a few final touches on our design wins," she says, but a la Mobile is working with major mobile handset makers from Asia.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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