New Identity Protection Initiative Based On IBM Research And Microsoft Encryption Technology

The project, called ABC4Trust, will pilot cryptographic technologies that enable citizens to better protect their privacy and identities

January 29, 2011

6 Min Read


Frankfurt, GERMANY, January 28, 2011 Today, on Data Privacy Day, a major research initiative was announced to pilot cryptographic technologies that enable citizens to better protect their privacy and identities. The project, called ABC4Trust, uses privacy-enabling technology that will be piloted at a university in Greece and a secondary school in Sweden.

According to comSore, European and United States citizens spend a monthly average of 25-321 hours surfing the Internet. During this time they access thousands of different Internet services, such as online banking, e-shopping, and social networks. For virtually every service, users have to create a personal user profile and get access to the service after a login via username and password, or for stronger security via cryptographic certificates. Although such certificates can offer sufficient security for many purposes, they do not typically provide any level of privacy for the user. Therefore, users often reveal their identity and personal data to the service provider even though it is not necessary for the service to know the identity of the acting user.

Revealing more information than necessary not only harms users privacy but also increases the risk of abuse of information such as identity fraud when personal information falls in the wrong hands. The goal of ABC4Trust is to show that systems of Attribute-Based Credentials can support both secure authentication as well as privacy, for example, in mobile communities. This directly supports the European Unions Digital Agenda, said Prof. Dr. Kai Rannenberg of the T-Mobile Chair of Mobile Business & Multilateral Security at Goethe University Frankfurt who coordinates the new initiative.

The four-year project will test privacy-preserving Attribute-Based Credentials (ABC) that allow the user to prove just the required information, without giving away a full identity. For example, instead of sharing the exact birthday or address by providing a copy of an identification card users only prove that they are over 18 years of age, a student of a university or a citizen of a specific municipality, state or country. The ABC system will make use of IBMs Identity Mixer and Microsofts U-Prove technologies.

With technologies like Identity Mixer, we provide the technical capabilities to bring not only strong security to Internet services, but at the same time also better privacy, states Dr. Jan Camenisch, privacy technology scientist at IBM Research - Zurich. Making use of more than ten years of research and development, we are now going to deploy these solutions in practice and address usability and interoperability.

Minimal disclosure technologies, such as U-Prove and Identity Mixer, provide important building blocks for the realization of a sustainable Identity Metasystem, says Kim Cameron, Microsoft Chief Architect of Identity. The ABC4Trust project will be a great forum for various stakeholders to address the problem of privacy for a safer, more trusted Internet.

Telecommunication operators are in the position to provide additional quality and service to their customers by providing advanced and user-centric Identity Management (IdM) functionalities, states Robert Seidl, responsible for IdM at Nokia Siemens Networks Research. With ABC4Trust, two great privacy-respecting technologies will be truly interoperable with the help of our IdM Solution being the party that integrates with both.

Pilot testing in Sweden and Greece

The first pilot application will be implemented at Norrtullskolan, a secondary school in Sderhamn, Sweden. The pilot will deploy the ABC system to allow pupils and parents to securely authenticate themselves towards services offered by the school such as communicating with the schools medical and social counselors as well as accessing a social network limited to a specific group of pupils while preserving their privacy.

The second pilot, conducted at the Research Academic Computer Technology Institute in Patras, Greece, will enable students to poll and rank the courses they took and the respective lecturers. While course evaluations have become standard practice at most universities, they are typically either conducted without the use of computers or by independent third parties to protect the students privacy. The ABC system will allow limiting the rating process to students that have participated in a lecture without revealing the identity of the students. Beyond this example, the pilot also demonstrates a solution to maintain accuracy and credibility in computer-supported polls, for instance in marketing surveys, while still providing the necessary privacy.

In both pilots ABC4Trust will allow each education facility to issue credentials to its users, including pupils, parents and students, enabling them to, prove that they have attended a certain class, are members of a specific group such as a sports team, or have a given sex or age. Stored on a smartcard or mobile phone, users may use these digital credentials to authenticate towards services. At the Patras pilot, the university will be able to run its own computerized feedback system and students can take comfort in knowing that ABC4Trust is protecting their identity.

The future of personalized identification As electronic personal identification cards and electronic driving licenses are becoming more widespread for identification, authentication, and payment in a broad range of applications, the users privacy will become an even greater challenge. Privacy technologies, such as the ones piloted in ABC4Trust, will be necessary to built sustainable privacy solutions into these systems and realize their benefits for tomorrows information society.

IBM Identity Mixer and Microsoft U-Prove IBM Identity Mixer and Microsoft U-Prove use sophisticated, yet efficient, cryptographic algorithms to help ensure that an individuals real identity, including personal attributes and behavior profiles, are never exposed to a service provider without the individuals consent. This technology is suitable for a wide range of applications, including insurance, healthcare services, online shops or credit cards. The technologies and its inventors have received several awards; in particular, they jointly received the Best Innovation European Identity Award 2010.

About ABC4Trust Consortium

ABC4Trust is a 13.5 Million Euro project, with 8.85 Million Euro funded by the European Unions Seventh Framework Program (FP7). The international and multidisciplinary ABC4Trust consortium is led by Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universitt Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Additional consortium members: Alexandra Instituttet, Denmark; Research Academic Computer Technology Institute, Greece; IBM Research-Zurich, Switzerland; Miracle A/S, Denmark; Nokia Siemens Networks GmbH & Co. KG, Munich, Germany; Technische Universitt Darmstadt, Germany; Unabhngiges Landeszentrum fr Datenschutz, Germany; Eurodocs AB, Sweden; CryptoExperts, France; Microsoft Research and Development France SAS, France, Sderhamn Kommun, Sweden. ABC4Trust started in November 2010 and will run for four years.

For more information

About the European Unions Seventh Framework Program Knowledge

The European Unions Seventh Framework Program Knowledge lies at the heart of the European Union's Lisbon Strategy to become the "most dynamic competitive knowledge-based economy in the world". The 'knowledge triangle' - research, education and innovation - is a core factor in European efforts to meet the ambitious Lisbon goals. Numerous programmes, initiatives and support measures are carried out at EU level in support of knowledge. The Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) bundles all research-related EU initiatives together under a common roof playing a crucial role in reaching the goals of growth, competitiveness and employment; along with a new Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), Education and Training programmes, and Structural and Cohesion Funds for regional convergence and competitiveness. It is also a key pillar for the European Research Area (ERA). The broad objectives of FP7 have been grouped into four categories:

Cooperation, Ideas, People and Capacities. For each type of objective, there is a specific programme corresponding to the main areas of EU research policy. All specific programmes work together to promote and encourage the creation of European poles of (scientific) excellence.

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