United Utilities is set to be the first company to use new text messaging security software to authenticate mobile users of its applications.
The company's telecoms and internet service provider subsidiary, Your Communications, is currently piloting the technology from RSA Security for 10,000 mobile workers, and expects to go live by the end of October.
Your Communications' mobile workers access the company's Citrix metaframe applications online from laptops. Product manager Mark Charlesworth said that the firm wanted to increase security levels.
"The majority of users are going to be accessing applications such as postcode analysis when someone is going to dig a hole in the road to make sure there are no major power lines or water pipes, and the information can be quite sensitive," he explained.
When staff try to access an application online from a laptop by entering their user ID and password, they will be sent a single-use eight-digit authentication number by SMS to their mobile phones.
The number, which is unique to each session, must then be entered on the log-in screen to verify the user.
The RSA Mobile Server, which is due to officially launch at the end of this month, is aimed at businesses that need to authenticate large numbers of customers for web-based services, such as online banks.
"It is very much targeted at addressing consumer concerns about security and the internet," said Sarah Kent, corporate development manager for Europe, Middle East & Africa at RSA.
The amount of security information online consumers are now being asked to remember is becoming too cumbersome, she claimed.
"People now have so many pieces of information to remember, and with this [solution] there is ease of use," explained Kent. "People are used to using SMS and using their mobile phones."
Based on RSA's SecurID two-factor authentication token product, Mobile Server stores the user information in a directory server.
The system has been developed in a Java 2 Enterprise Edition environment using BEA's Weblogic for the back-end.
The cost of the product will be based on the number of end users for the server and the associated costs of delivering the text messages.
Based on its own calculations for a million end users, RSA estimates the total cost of ownership to be under £3 per user per annum.
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