South African mobile services provider Grapevine Interactive has been awarded a provisional patent for its world-first Secure SMS service which eliminates the problem of standard text messages being open to interception or viewing by unauthorised persons.

 Secure SMS requires a PIN to be entered by the recipient before the message content can be viewed.
According to Grapevine’s chief technology officer, Cliff Court: “The applications are manifold. Organisations will now find that sensitive information can be securely delivered to their customers without the recipient needing to download and install applications. Individuals will find that protecting the content of certain text messages could prove equally useful.”
Whether it’s banking balances or PINs, insurance information or the results of medical tests, Secure SMS is an effective mechanism for protecting consumers’ private information.
There is no need to download any software or to specially-configure one’s handset because Secure SMS uses standard cellphone functionality available on the majority of cellphones. When an organisation sends a secure message, the recipient receives a notification message and selects the link in the message. This takes them to a secure screen that requires them to enter a PIN in order to view their message.
Previously, several companies have tried to address the SMS security issue by writing custom software applications for cellphones that will decrypt and display specially-encrypted messages. This method of securing messages has been shown to be problematic due to the large number of different cellphones in the market, requiring multiple versions of such an application, and the difficulty most users have in understanding how to install such software.
With Grapevine’s Secure SMS service, well-accepted mechanisms used by online-banking systems are employed to secure the messages and ensure that only authorised users can view them. The first time a user receives a Secure SMS message, they are asked to register on their cellphone.
They select their own PIN and this is then used for viewing all future secure messages, regardless of whom sends them. This makes the service more user-friendly as they do not have to remember a different PIN for every new sending party.
Secure SMS allows for messages up to 500 characters in length and the sending organisation can choose to brand their messages with their company logo. The service allows users to hold their messages for up to three months and re-read them whenever required. Secure SMS will also work anywhere in the world that has a GSM network.