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Smart Card Security: The SIM/USIM Case

Noureddine Boudriga

Smart cards are tamper-resistant modules that are capable of securely saving secret cryptographic materials and executing undetected (or autonomous) executions of cryptographic algorithms. A smart card can be considered as a safe container to store data, in the sense that it is highly protected against all unauthorized or unforeseen access. Smart cards can help users in various sensitive activities. Nowadays, smart cards are typically used in an application-specific way, in the sense that they act as the application's security modules. In particular, they are ideally appropriate to operate as personal security modules in mobile systems.

Their usage spans over several application domains including banking, telecommunications, and identity. An example of smart card is given by the SIM module, used in any GSM phone, that implements a special application, which is defined by the GSM standard, to protect the data in the card and to allow access control to the GSM networks. However, it is possible for a GSM subscriber to have more than one SIM in the same mobile terminal (for different network providers) or to use the same SIM in different equipments. Thus, smart cards are trusted personal devices designed to store and process confidential data, and to act as secure tokens for providing access to applications and services.

Open smart card-based platforms used by mobile systems are new generation trusted personal devices with enhanced flexibility in terms of connectivity and interoperability. Smart cards can host several applications and allow new applications to be added after their issuance. Such flexibility adds more concerns about the ...

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From Security of Mobile Communications by Noureddine Boudriga. New York: Auerbach Publications, 2009.
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