USENIX Technical Program - Abstract - Security Symposium 99
Hand-Held Computers Can Be Better Smart Cards
Dirk Balfanz and Edward W. Felten,Princeton University
Smart cards are convenient and secure. They protect sensitive
information (e.g., private keys) from malicious applications. However,
they do not protect the owner from abuse of the smart card: An
application could for example cause a smart card to digitally sign any
message, at any time, without the knowledge of the owner.
In this paper we suggest that small, hand-held computers can be used
instead of smart cards. They can communicate with the user directly
and therefore do not exhibit the above mentioned problem.
We have implemented smart card functionality for a 3COM PalmPilot. Our
implementation is a PKCS#11 module that plugs into Netscape
Communicator and takes about 5 seconds to sign an email message.
Generalizing from this experience, we argue that applications that are
split between a PC and a hand-held device can be more secure. While such
an application remains fast and convenient to use, it gains additional
security assurances from the fact that part of it runs on a trusted
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