January 12, 2006 10:49 AM PST

U.K. official: Fight online fraud with iPods

A senior manager at a British government agency has come up with an alternative to the U.K.'s identity card scheme: Give everyone a free iPod installed with a digital certificate.

Patrick Cooper, the head of applications and data services in the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry, floated the idea--albeit with tongue firmly in cheek--at an event on Tuesday, hosted by Adobe Systems, to discuss technology predictions for 2006.

Cooper said that two of the main issues facing the IT industry are network authentication and security, particularly when using government services online. He claimed that the ubiquity of asymetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) networks has come at the price of security risks. The integrated services digital network (ISDN) standard is an inherently more secure medium than ADSL, but is too expensive to meet the needs of most consumers or small businesses, he said.

But a cell phone or an iPod equipped with a digital signature or digital certificate that consumers or business users plugged into their home machines would be an efficient way to solve online authentication and identity management problems, Cooper argued.

"If you had a mobile phone with a digital certificate, you could dock it into your PC. An iPod with a digital certificate would also work," Cooper said. "My boss would give everyone in the U.K. an iPod. That would also mean there would be no reason for anyone to steal one, because everyone would have one."

Cooper quipped that the iPod scheme would also be a more cost-efficient alternative to other government plans to combat online fraud, such as equipping the proposed National ID Card with a PIN or password system to enable it to work as an online authentication device.

The U.K. government has been facing mounting pressure to combat online fraud after it emerged in December last year that its tax credit Web site had been hit by more than 30 million pounds, or about $52 million, in fraudulent claims.

The cost of issuing an ID card to every British citizen could rise to almost 500 pounds (about $884) per person, due to the cost of integrating the IT infrastructure with other government departments and public sector bodies, according to recent data from the London School of Economics.

"It (an iPod with a digital certificate) would be cheaper than the ID Card scheme," Cooper said.

To give everyone in the U.K. an iPod Nano could work out at roughly 139 pounds, or about $245, each, even before factoring in the kind of discount that Apple Computer might offer for a bulk purchase of 60 million units.

Andrew Donoghue of ZDNet UK reported from London. Andy McCue of Silicon.com contributed to this report from London.

7 comments

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stupid idea
This is one of the stupidest ideas I heard in a long time. Although I am an Ipod fan, why use this expensive device in the first place? Any cheap USB memory stick could store a digital certificate. Using Ipods or any other device also does not address the problem of identity theft. If your Ipod is your identity and everybody knows that, wouldn't that be an encouragement for stealing it?
Besides, I think Apple is already making enough money....
Posted by ralph240574 (1 comment )
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Then...
Buy stock in them then.
Posted by dlee312 (15 comments )
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Ummm...
What happened to stealing someone's iPod BECAUSE it is the source of a person's identity? Identity thieves will now get an iPod on top of it all!
Posted by dlee312 (15 comments )
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Replacement costs
Dumb idea. How much do you think it would cost to replace a card vs. an iPod? Way less.
Posted by joshhyde (13 comments )
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*knock knock* tounge-in-cheek!
Of course its a stupid idea! Maybe you missed the memo... this was suggested 'tounge-in-cheek' (a joke). Anyway I found it ironic, that an ipod would be a cheaper solution, though still not perfect. An ID card is no better, and an ipod is actually usefull.
Posted by d2r4 (21 comments )
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slow
Whatever -- I just wish these governments would do something, anything, to fix this gaping hole in their respective national security infrastructures.
Posted by tipper_gore (74 comments )
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Odd
Very confused story, and an even more confused individual. As the story says...

The cost of issuing an ID card to every British citizen could rise to almost 500 pounds (about $884) per person, due to the cost of integrating the IT infrastructure with other government departments and public sector bodies, according to recent data from the London School of Economics.

The problem is not the card, but the system to manage the data on the card. Switching to an other device to store the key solves nothing.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
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