June 16th, 2014 by Sarah Sluis

Mobile security is only going to become more important. This morning, while speaking to managing director of CSO Insights Jim Dickie about an upcoming feature about mobile CRM, I asked him about the kinds of questions he fields from people exploring mobile apps. “There are a lot of concerns about security,” he told me. “If there are sophisticated apps, with pricing information” and access to back-office systems, “there have to be ways of making sure it’s the right user, and remotely wiping information,” he said.

The Vysk case.

The Vysk case.

Enterprises that may have been reluctant to add in mobile apps will eventually have to in order to keep up with the competition and a workforce that demands mobile access. And consumers like me, who once opened up their laptops on the couch to access the web or purchase products, find it easier to do the same tasks through the mobile device.

Entering into this landscape of mobile security is Vysk. What looks like a very thick phone case is actually a sophisticated piece of hardware designed to offer a high level of mobile security to enterprises and consumers alike. CEO and Co-Founder of Vysk, Victor Cocchia, came to CRM Magazine’s office with the prototypes in a locked metal suitcase (“People freak out when I bring this on a plane,” he said) to discuss the product and drive home the importance of security in today’s day-and-age.

“Criminals are ingenious. They know how to use technology to gain an advantage,” he observed. Both legitimate apps and malware have the ability to do things like turn on your microphone and camera. Facebook, for example, has announced that its app will activate a smartphone user’s microphone, hear the sounds of a song or television show, and use that to allow someone to update their status with that information. Many consumers felt uncomfortable with the feature. The implication is also that in the future, the app could also listen to ambient noise and use that for more precise advertising messaging.

Cocchia also brought up a number of instances where hackers were able to capture naked pictures of women by hacking their webcams, or by blackmailing them into stripping for the hacked webcam. One such victim was 2013’s Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf.

Often, when people are hacked, they don’t even know about it. He cited one example of the Australian government spying on meetings regarding a trade dispute between the United States and Indonesia, which came to light only recently, a decade after it happened, apparently from documents leaked by Edward Snowden. “People are giving up their privacy every day without even realizing it,” Cocchia warned.

Vysk is different than other security measures I have used, like installing anti-virus software, dialing up via a VPN, or even entering a numeric key generated by a cog on a keychain. Vysk is hardware. The case is bulky, but also helps extend the battery power in addition to providing security features. It allows people to manually close the shutter to their phone, preventing unwanted photos. The case also serves to block the phone’s microphones and instead go through ones in the Vysk case, where they can be encrypted using principles of quantum randomness that Cocchia says will take years of technological advancements to break. Metadata, those pieces of information the NSA used to monitor activities about who is calling who, cannot be collected using Vysk. The enterprise version is over 200 bucks and requires a monthly subscription, while the consumer version costs as much as similar devices that only provide the extra battery power ($130), a nice selling point.

Cocchia says the platform is good enough presidents in three countries are on waiting lists for the production model, which sounds like a pretty compelling endorsement. But the greatest benefit of security protections like Vysk may be in the awareness they bring to issues like mobile security. Many people have been scared or outraged by news ranging from the NSA data monitoring to the Target breach to the intellectual property theft companies like China are carrying out. But risks to one’s person or the enterprise can be hard to quantify. Figuring out what will protect you from attacks can be even more difficult. Tools like Vysk are a good step to providing enterprises and consumers with the ability to secure their mobile data.

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