Chinese smartphone manufacturer Gionee claims it has found the answer to securing Android smartphones: with a hardware-based solution.

Hardware-based security is nothing new; many of the latest smartphones use biometrics to protect a phone’s lock screen. The trouble is that if the lock screen is bypassed, your protection is minimal at best.

The answer, as Apple “proved” in its case versus the FBI earlier this year, lies in encryption. The trouble is that software-based encryption can slow a phone down to the point where it feels like a trapped insect trying to move through molasses.

Details around Gionee’s hardware-based encryption are still sketchy, but we do know that it will take the form of a dedicated microchip that will be completely self-contained.

The benefit of this is that there are fewer points of failure for an attacker to manipulate. This security measure is behind Gionee’s claim that its latest phone, the Gionee M6, might just be the most secure smartphone ever.

Gionee’s vice president, Yu Lei, confirmed yesterday that the chip will be fitted into the M6, which is slated for release in China on 26th July.

The M6 as shown on China's Telecommunication Equipment Certification Center MIIT's website.
The M6 as shown on China’s Telecommunication Equipment Certification Centre website.

A step forward

While it’s unlikely we will see the M6 here in South Africa, the release of a hardware-based encryption system for an Android phone is a significant step forward in the fight against malware that targets mobiles.

The trouble is that it requires original equipment manufacturers to actually fit the chip in their smartphones, and if Google couldn’t convince manufacturers to use software-based encryption, we struggle to see them forking out for additional hardware, which will raise their costs.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction for Android, and more importantly it could lessen the threat of malware stealing mobile phone users’ information in the long term.

[Source – Gionee] [Image – CC BY SA 2.0 Amanda Slater]