Experts deride lottery deal



David Bicknell

Security specialists have warned that plans by Bill Gates and Richard Branson to offer National Lottery tickets via the...



David Bicknell

Security specialists have warned that plans by Bill Gates and Richard Branson to offer National Lottery tickets via the Internet and mobile phones are likely to prove unworkable.

The pair indicated in a television appearance that Microsoft would be supporting Virgin Group in its bid to take over the running of the lottery from Camelot at the end of next year.

Bids for the seven-year contract have to be submitted by the end of this month, with a decision to be made by the end of June.

But security experts have warned that, while there is currently a clear audit trail for the sale of lottery tickets, with reasonable guarantees that participants are over 16, any changes to allow the sale of tickets via PC or mobile phone could mean systems are less secure.

Peter Sommer, one of the UK's leading security experts, in a memo to the Crypto newsgroup warned, "The idea sounds utterly unthought-out. Is the aim that newsagents will have PC-based lottery terminals or that every Internet-connected PC becomes a lottery terminal the moment it logs on to a National Lottery Web site? If the latter, how, among other things, are they going to prevent under-age purchase?"

The new operating licence will run from the start of October next year, leaving just over 15 months for the successful operator to produce practical workable solutions.

If the Microsoft/Virgin consortium's bid is accepted, and PC and mobile technology adopted, it would make necessary the widespread adoption of identity guarantees, such as identity cards or digital certificates.

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