Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Me, myself and I: manage online identity more safely

19.02.2008
A scrap of information here, a little detail there… the web is safe if you guard what personal and financial information you provide. Or is it? Identity theft and cyber-spying are on the rise, and keeping track of what you reveal is nigh on impossible. Not for much longer, if European researchers get their way.

Strangers can build a fairly complete picture of our movements, transactions and relationships from the cyber-trail we leave behind. This has major implications for what has become a pervasive tool to society, business and administrations.

Privacy and identity management are fast becoming fundamental to future developments on the internet. Hard-won trust in e-commerce and in using e-government services, for example, could quickly erode if security issues are not properly addressed.

Two basic rules govern how people can better protect themselves online, according to specialists. First, we need to “separate contexts” so that observers cannot accumulate sensitive data – basically, by making it much harder for cyber-spies to join the online dots of our lives. Second, and crucially, we have to really keep track of what we do disclose.

These rules form the basis of the concepts and prototypes developed within the PRIME project. Perhaps borrowing from the Joan Armatrading song, PRIME’s mantra is “Me, myself and I! Manage your identities safely”.

“Our main aim is for people to gain autonomy over their personal data, so they can make informed decisions on what information they provide online,” says project partner Marit Hansen of Germany’s Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD, the Data Protection Authority for Land Schleswig-Holstein).

Like a good poker player who never fully reveals his hand, good identity management (IDM) means choosing and developing appropriate partial identities. For example, OnionCoffee is a PRIME software module written in Java to help end-users exchange information anonymously over the internet.

Disclosure, not exposure
It is a bit of a balancing act. To get the most from online services, we often have to disclose more about ourselves, but can we do it without unnecessary exposure? PRIME thinks we can.

The EU-funded project has put together a toolbox, console (interface for managing identity online) and middleware (software to glue components together) to help individuals and organisations wrest control of their online identities.

The toolbox or building blocks make good use of tutorials, application modules and documentation, including a White Paper published in 2007. The tools PRIME developed marry the need for accountability (i.e. proving you are 18 to enter certain websites) with the need for anonymity.

A key component is the use of “private credentials” derived from certificates issued by, say, professional ID providers, such as online payment operators, on different pseudonyms for the same person.

“Multiple private credentials can be created from a single certificate,” says Hansen. Using cryptography, there is nothing tying them so the person's anonymity is assured. If the system is abused – i.e. fraudulent and/or antisocial behaviour – the anonymity built into the private credentials can be revoked, and appropriate action taken against the individual, she warns.

Sticky policies
Better-designed websites and workflows, separating different tasks and corresponding databases, would also help protect users’ privacy, PRIME research suggests. As, too, would a commitment by organisations to enforce their data privacy policies more diligently, and to make them easier for online customers and users to understand and verify before and after transacting.

“Sticky policies” can also be written into IDM applications so that the policy literally travels on the back of the data being transferred. This means, if data is passed on (legally) to third parties, the policy stays with the data, thus protecting the source’s privacy (i.e. that means you and I).

So using a combination of pseudonyms and PRIME private credentials, data provided through e-commerce, e-health, or e-government applications are secured against future misuse. In principle, this also works in web-mail accounts and online social networking, which is one of the extended scenarios dealt with in the follow-up EU-funded project PrimeLife, starting in 2008.

PET project
Another web-based system developed by PRIME also helps us keep track of what we have already put out in cyberspace. The ‘Data Track’ tool in PRIME’s console works like the web-history in your browser, monitoring the ‘what’, ‘to whom’ and ‘when’ of online transactions.

Data Track also records the privacy policies of the service providers, and lets you query how your data has been used after the fact. It also helps you (re)use appropriate accounts – logins and passwords – in different contexts, keeping them apart (unless otherwise instructed).

PRIME has developed its tools and applications in the sprit of the EU’s ‘privacy enhancing technologies’ (PET) initiative. According to the European Commission, wider development and use of PETs should boost efforts to protect citizens’ privacy. The project is also actively engaged in standard setting, such as ISO and W3C, in identity management.

Since 2004, PRIME has pioneered this multiple-context approach to digital IDM, suggests Hansen. Today, as online security concerns have grown, there is an even stronger case for its approach, as well as an untapped market for its components, especially with digital signature providers and mobile data handlers.

“The market is ripe for better data protection and privacy solutions, especially as more mobile data transactions take place, and we are well placed to capitalise on this,” confirms Hansen. “In fact, we’re very interested in commercial or marketing partnerships to make this happen.”

PRIME has already spun-off a location-based service system to Germany’s T-Mobile and plans to refine some of its tools and platforms, particularly in data structuring and workflow, in PrimeLife, which was recently presented at the CISTRANA Topical Seminar on ICT Security.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89504

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht UT professor develops algorithm to improve online mapping of disaster areas
29.11.2016 | University of Tennessee at Knoxville

nachricht New standard helps optical trackers follow moving objects precisely
23.11.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>