News Articles

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Insecure Mobile Browsers

We've added a new Opinion section to our website. This is the first in an occasional series of articles in which James Rosewell takes a look at some of the technical issues that are often concealed from mobile consumers.

I note with interest Barclays mobile on-line banking home page extolling the safety of mobile banking whilst claiming it’s as secure as their non-mobile equivalent. This is on the same page that recommends customers use Opera Mini to access Barclays mobile on-line banking.

How safe is Mobile Banking?

[Text from Barclays mobile banking site on 9th June 2009]

Yet following the link to the web site and looking at the help section we can read Opera’s answer to the question “Is there any end-to-end security between my handset and — for example — or my bank?” and the answer is “No. If you need full end-to-end encryption, you should use a full Web browser such as Opera Mobile.”

Is there any end-to-end security between my handset and — for example — or my bank?

[Text from web site on 9th June 2009].

Opera’s answer can be applied to any mobile internet browsing that utilises transcoder technology, including mobile network operators and Skyfire. Using transcoder technology of any kind to access secure web sites leaves the mobile user open to phishing attacks as it’s impossible to validate the site being accessed is the one intended. The mobile user is unwittingly giving a 3rd party such as Opera, Skyfire or their mobile network access to their personal information. The technology exists for Barclays (and other banks that offer mobile services) to detect transcoders and prevent mobile devices from accessing the service, or at least warn the user.

Contradictions between different organisations are soon going to be picked up by the mainstream press and confusion will reign among a public already nervous about on-line security. All organisations offering ecommerce, banking, payment or any other mobile service involving personal information need to both understand the subject and present accurate information to the public. If they don’t, these services will be slow to take off and will stifle an industry in its infancy to the detriment of all.

If you’d like to find out exactly how Opera Mini, Skyfire and mobile network transcoders reduce online security, listen to this week's edition of The Fonecast at

Author: The Fonecast
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