Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Analytics

IBM's 'Need to Know' Software

IBM's Idemix application lets consumers do business on the Web without giving away unnecessary personal data

You've seen it before: A Website wants to verify that you're over 18, so they require you to enter a credit card number. They want to prove that you're a U.S. citizen, so they require a driver's license number or Social Security ID. And there you go again -- putting your entire electronic identity at risk just to enter an electronic contest or buy online movie tickets.

Can't Websites find a way to get the data they need without forcing you to input the very information that identity thieves crave?

Later this year, some Websites may be able to do just that. IBM today announced software that allows people to hide or make anonymous their personal information on the Web. Developed by researchers at IBM's laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland, the software (codenamed Identity Mixer, or Idemix for short) will enable consumers to purchase goods and services on the Internet while disclosing only the personal information the merchant truly needs to know.

As consumers hand over personal details in exchange for downloading music or subscribing to online newsletters, they leave a data trail that reveals pieces of information about the size, frequency, and source of their online purchases. This can be traced back to the user, IBM observes. IBM's Idemix software eliminates that trail by using artificial identity information -- called "pseudonyms" -- to make online transactions anonymous.

For example, the software allows people to purchase books or clothing without revealing their credit card number. It can confirm someone's spending limit without sharing their bank balance, or provide proof of age without disclosing date of birth.

Essentially, Idemix is a cryptographic go-between, explains Nataraj Nagaratnam, chief architect for identity management at IBM's Tivoli unit. "It lets the user establish trust without giving up their privacy."

With Idemix software, a user can get an anonymous digital credential, or voucher, from a trusted third party, like a bank or government agency, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. A bank would provide a credential containing a credit card number and expiration date, and when an online purchase is made, the Idemix software digitally seals the information by transforming the credential so the user can send it to the online merchant.

By using sophisticated cryptographic algorithms, the Idemix software acts as the middleman confirming bank authorization for the purchase -- so the real credit card numbers are never revealed to the merchant. The next time a purchase is made, a new, encrypted credential would be used.

"When people don't have to disclose their personal information on the Web, the risk of identity theft is dramatically reduced," explains John Clippinger, senior fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. "The ability to anonymize transactions using Idemix has the potential to bolster consumer confidence."

IBM will contribute its Idemix software to the Eclipse Higgins project, an open source effort dedicated to developing software for "user-centric" identity management. As Nagaratnam explains it, the goal is to create a "digital wallet" in which the user can establish various "tokens" of trust and authentication, such as credit cards, driver's licenses, bank accounts, and so forth. Depending on the online transaction, the user could supply one or more of these tokens to provide the necessary third-party verifications -- without actually giving the token to the merchant.

IBM plans to deliver Idemix later this year, and it will probably be another year or two before the fruits of Idemix and the Higgins project will become widely available to consumers, Nagaratnam says. But technologies such as Idemix and Microsoft's CardSpace -- a function of Vista -- will eventually help end users build a secure way to store personal information while continuing to do business online, he says.

"The market is finally going to have its chance to test the theories and the hype behind the electronic information card," said Mike Neuenschwander, research director for Burton Group's Identity and Privacy Strategies service, in a report issued earlier this week. "With the appearance of Microsoft CardSpace, user-centric identity technologies are moving off the discussion boards and into products."

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)
  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)
  • IBM Tivoli Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio
     

    Recommended Reading:

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
    Dark Reading Staff 8/3/2020
    Pen Testers Who Got Arrested Doing Their Jobs Tell All
    Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/5/2020
    Browsers to Enforce Shorter Certificate Life Spans: What Businesses Should Know
    Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/30/2020
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Video
    Cartoon Contest
    Current Issue
    Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
    This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
    Flash Poll
    The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
    The Changing Face of Threat Intelligence
    This special report takes a look at how enterprises are using threat intelligence, as well as emerging best practices for integrating threat intel into security operations and incident response. Download it today!
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    CVE-2020-17366
    PUBLISHED: 2020-08-05
    An issue was discovered in NLnet Labs Routinator 0.1.0 through 0.7.1. It allows remote attackers to bypass intended access restrictions or to cause a denial of service on dependent routing systems by strategically withholding RPKI Route Origin Authorisation ".roa" files or X509 Certificate...
    CVE-2020-9036
    PUBLISHED: 2020-08-05
    Jeedom through 4.0.38 allows XSS.
    CVE-2020-15127
    PUBLISHED: 2020-08-05
    In Contour ( Ingress controller for Kubernetes) before version 1.7.0, a bad actor can shut down all instances of Envoy, essentially killing the entire ingress data plane. GET requests to /shutdown on port 8090 of the Envoy pod initiate Envoy's shutdown procedure. The shutdown procedure includes flip...
    CVE-2020-15132
    PUBLISHED: 2020-08-05
    In Sulu before versions 1.6.35, 2.0.10, and 2.1.1, when the "Forget password" feature on the login screen is used, Sulu asks the user for a username or email address. If the given string is not found, a response with a `400` error code is returned, along with a error message saying that th...
    CVE-2020-7298
    PUBLISHED: 2020-08-05
    Unexpected behavior violation in McAfee Total Protection (MTP) prior to 16.0.R26 allows local users to turn off real time scanning via a specially crafted object making a specific function call.