Symbol buys into stronger mobile security

Symbol Technologies is to buy Trio Security in a bid to secure data and applications on handheld devices.

Symbol Technologies is to buy Trio Security in a bid to secure data and applications on handheld devices.

Symbol, which develops wireless computing devices, barcode scanning and other mobile enterprise applications, will integrate Trio features into its mobility software and eventually into its devices. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Trio's software handles user authentication and data encryption for mobile platforms. It will help to protect enterprise data and make it easier for travelling staff to roam from one type of wireless network to another, according to Lee Williams, general manager and vice-president of Symbol's mobility software division.

The new capabilities will be introduced from the end of this year.

Concerns over wireless Lan security, along with growing regulation of data security in areas, such as healthcare, are boosting interest in the security of mobile computing, said Abner Germanow, an analyst at IDC.

Among the technologies Trio offers is software that incorporates user authentication mechanisms into a handheld device that are at least as strong as biometric methods, said Williams. Enterprises can protect their devices from misuse in the field without the need for added hardware such as a fingerprint reader.

For example, a user who wants to log in to a handheld point-of-sale device might write a signature on a touch-screen and the software could check not only the appearance of the signature but the speed of the handwritten strokes, he said. Alternatively, unique keys or multiple phrases could be required. This would help prevent unauthorised people from using the device, he said.

In addition, once a user was authenticated, the handheld could become a portable authentication device, automatically verifying the user's identity for entry to a cellular data service or a wireless Lan as they moved from the field to the office, Williams said.

By the end of this year, Symbol will make some Trio software elements available to enterprise developers to create their own applications. Later the company will integrate the capabilities into its Mobile Services Suite middleware to ease management.

The acquisition is likely to help Symbol integrate user authentication into its devices more tightly, which would enhance security systems and make them easier to use, according Germanow.

The deal has broad implications because of the widespread use of Symbol devices in industries such as warehousing, delivery and healthcare, he said.

Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service

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