Trusted service managers key to enterprise deployment
With NFC technology making its way to mobile phones and tablets, companies are looking for ways to leverage its power to simplify business processes. Much of the focus centers on the use of phones for financial transactions, but it’s also possible to put access control credentials onto the secure element so employees can use their handsets as corporate ID badges to gain physical access to buildings.
But putting credentials onto handsets is a complicated process and few companies are equipped to undertake it on their own. Thus, the concept of the trusted service manager (TSM) evolved to help organizations provision data on the chips.
TSMs came about in 2007 when the Global System for Mobile Communications pioneered the concept to enable NFC service adoption. The TSM was designed to be an independent entity serving mobile network operators and account-issuing entities such as banks, card associations, transit authorities, merchants and marketing companies, says Deb Spitler, vice president, mobile access solutions at HID Global Corp.
“The TSM’s core function is to securely distribute, provision and manage the lifecycle of NFC applications to the mobile network operator’s customer base on behalf of service providers,” says Spitler. “They do this through mobile network operator management, over-the-air provisioning or handset wallet management.”
“TSMs are considered to be an important element for provisioning applications to NFC-enabled phones, because they can handle the special requirements of managing personal information in a data environment that conforms to payment industry security protocols,” says Spitler.
TSMs help make sure that no weaknesses are introduced into the chain from the enterprise or company side. “You need a TSM is primarily so that you can control what goes on and what keys and credentials are then put onto the mobile phone’s secure element,” says Amol Deshmukh, director of solution sales for mobile and financial services North America at Gemalto.
The TSM offers companies the best available security as well as provide the ability to control credentials and change them as needs evolve or users leave. “[It’s] very similar to what you control when issuing traditional access cards,” says Deshmukh.
When a ompany hires a TSM, it should understand what type of interaction to expect. The TSM would likely have a Web portal that a security administrator uses to administer and manage credentials to mobile devices, says Spitler.
Another variation to hiring a TSM is bringing that role in-house by licensing a platform. Whether in-house or as a service, a TSM should be able to load the ID application onto any phones the enterprise wants to support, says David Worthington, principal consultant, Payments & Chip Technology at Bell ID.
TSMs typically do not get involved in the transaction process. In the case of physical access, it does not verify that the credential is in the hands of the right user or whether the door should be opened. “In a nutshell a TSM is a provisioning system, not a transaction system,” says Deshmukh.
Even if an organization has a TSM, it still can be a challenge to get credentials on handsets. “Having the TSM doesn’t mean you have rights over the keys inside the phone. You still have to negotiate and get access to the keys,” says Jason Hart, executive vice president of cloud and identity solutions at Identive.
“They need to have relationships with all the different carriers, not just those within your geographic market,” explains Hart. “In the case of a global company, they’d need access and relationships with carriers and vendors all over the world.”
The issue of who has rights to access the secure element continues to exist. In many cases, the carriers control one secure element and the handset manufacturer another. Making sure that the enterprise-hired TSM can place credentials in one or both of the secure elements is an issue to address, Hart says.
Using a TSM to provision security credentials is an evolving trend, but the future of NFC in physical and logical access depends on this crucial link that controls over the air rights to the secure element.
Obstacles to NFC’s use for physical access control
It’s going to be a while before the smart phone replaces the traditional corporate credential, says Jason Hart, executive vice president of cloud and identity solutions at Identive.
“What we’ve begun to see is subpopulations within an overall corporate population that want the flexibility and convenience of having a portable device,” Hart explains. “So people will still have their company ID badge, but we see the mobile phone as an augmentation of the card – or as an alternative.”
The replacement time of phones could be a factor in implementing NFC access credentials. Due to phone contracts, it could be 18 months or longer before people are able to get new phones with NFC, says Worthington.
“Not everybody will have a phone that supports it. Does this mean I give out NFC stickers to stick on the back of their old phone, so they can still basically wave their phone [for access] same as everybody else?” says Worthington.
Companies may also have to determine whether they only want to deal with a specific type of phone, that is only Android devices or those with some sort of fixed certification or a controlled environment, says Worthington.