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City University London wins funds for mobile banking security

A team of informatics and engineering specialists at City University London has received US$200,000 in funding from the UK Government’s UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) for a three-year project to develop new security measures for mobile banking. The UKIERI aims to encourage research links between the UK and India, one of the fastest growing mobile markets, with 80 million internet-enabled handset users predicted by the end of 2009 (mobileSQUARED figures). 

Today, many mobile banking offerings require a dedicated SIM card in order to authenticate users, resulting in poor user experience and uptake, as consumers are forced to swap between SIM cards or use dual SIM handsets. City’s team of researchers, led by Dr Rajarajan, Assistant Dean, E-Learning, is pioneering a new form of security software, which generates a personal code or “crypto key” for each user via their existing SIM card. The result is the simplest yet securest form of mobile banking authentication to date. 

“The GSMA’s Mobile Money for the Unbanked initiative has set the global goal of bringing mobile financial services to 20 million people who previously did not have bank accounts by 2012,” explains Dr Rajarajan. “But security concerns and the complexity of many services will hamper adoption...With this new technology, we hope to overcome these barriers-to-entry and help both banks and mobile network operators to roll out secure and easy-to-use mobile banking services.” 

Researchers have so far worked with banks in India and the UK to develop a prototype of the technology, and are also liaising with local government organisations to explore how the solution could be deployed in other mobile transaction applications, such as paying for parking and congestion charges. 

Next, a feasibility study will be carried out by Warwick Business School and a cyber criminologist from The University of Leeds Law School will develop the necessary legal framework. 

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