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Start-Up Offers Shoulder-Hacking Shield Of Software

New Windows desktop software employs facial recognition and detection to capture 'peeping Tom' hackers
You can have an encrypted session and employ all of the best security practices, but you can't stop someone behind you from peeking at your computer screen and seeing sensitive information on display.

To address that, a Hunt Valley, Md.-based start-up called Oculis Labs today launched a shoulder-hacking protection product that blurs the computer screen when the user looks away, and captures any "peeping Toms" peering at the screen from over the user's shoulder. The PrivateEye Enterprise software for Windows automatically detects when the user turns away and then blurs the screen so no other eyes can see the contents. When the user glances back at the screen, the display reappears. Both screen transformations each occur in less than one second.

"We focused on the one thing no one is addressing [in security]," says Bill Anderson, co-founder and CEO of Oculis. "No one is protecting the last two feet from the Internet. Businesses protect against network-based attacks, but at the point where the user goes to look at the data on the screen, all that policy and granular security is lost, and the opportunity for breaches is there."

The PrivateEye Enterprise software uses facial recognition to authenticate the user, and a webcam to keep an eye on what's going on behind or around the user that is out of view -- namely, someone trying to peek at his private data. "It's looking around for potential eavesdroppers. [Studies show] that nine out of 10 people do look over other folks' shoulders at their screens. For the most part, this is harmless," Anderson says, but not always.

To date, the main way to camouflage content on a computer screen has been a physical shield, such as a plastic screen.

When a peeper gets in the frame of the machine, the webcam shoots a photo, alerts the user in the top corner screen via a window, and blurs the screen so the peeper can't see anything. The screen clears when the incident is resolved and the peeper is no longer in view of the screen.

The facial-recognition technology authenticates and unlocks the computer for the legitimate user. The software uses special algorithms to determine which way the face is pointing so it knows when to blur the screen, for instance. The software can be managed by Group Policy in Active Directory, according to Oculis, which for more than a year has offered a standalone consumer version of the software.

Oculis is also planning a mobile version of the software.

PrivateEye Enterprise costs about $30 to $35 per seat in volume discounts, and $70 for a single seat.

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