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July 8, 2009

IBM releases new software to preserve privacy

Aims to lessen the vulnerability of information to theft

By CBR Staff Writer

IBM Research-Haifa has developed a new software that claims to hide sensitive or personal information which might otherwise appear on the computer screens of unauthorised personnel. The new offering is said to be suitable for security conscious fields such as healthcare, insurance, government or financial services.

According to the company, when refined and developed, this technology-dubbed MAGEN (Masking Gateway for Enterprises) – the Hebrew word for shield – might help organisations comply with privacy laws and lessen the vulnerability of information to theft.

The company said that this is the new product in a string of ‘proofs-of-concept’ developed by IBM researchers, designed to preserve privacy. In the course of developing the MAGEN proof-of-concept, IBM applied for at least two US patents, including one for ways of manipulating images, and one for scrambling words.

Haim Nelken, manager of integration technologies at IBM’s Haifa, Israel Research Lab, said: MAGEN’s screen masking approach eliminates the need to painstakingly tailor ‘data masking’ solutions to specific environments. The bottom line is faster performance, simpler database security and reduced costs for protecting sensitive data.

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MAGEN reportedly treats information on the screen as a picture, and relies on optical character-recognition technology to determine which onscreen fields need to be blanked out or replaced with random values. Unlike other offerings, MAGEN does not change the software programme or the data itself – it claims to filter the information before it ever reaches the PC screen, and companies need not create modified copies of electronic records where information is masked, scrambled, or eliminated.

The company noted that MAGEN’s rules can also be modified as confidentiality regulations change, or for different types of users. The offering can be deployed in any environment where screen images are delivered – irrespective of the operating system, application, or protocols used.

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