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IBM develops software that masks sensitive on-screen information

10 July 2009

Researchers at IBM have developed a software shield that more efficiently and effectively hides sensitive information that might otherwise appear on the computer screens of unauthorised personnel.

The technology could prove particularly useful for security conscious fields such as healthcare, insurance, government or financial services and might help organisations better comply with privacy laws, and lessen the vulnerability of information to theft.

Dubbed MAGEN (Masking Gateway for Enterprises), the software 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 solutions, MAGEN does not change the software program or the data itself.

Instead it filters the information before it reaches the PC screen, and does not force companies to create modified copies of electronic records where information is masked, scrambled, or eliminated.

IBM applied for at least two US patents, including one for unique ways of manipulating images, and one for scrambling words.

The software shield is the latest in various proofs-of-concept developed by IBM researchers designed to preserve privacy.

Last year IBM Research in India created voice recognition technology that automatically detects and muffles the most sensitive portions of recorded conversations, such as those between customer service representatives and clients.

A few weeks ago an IBM researcher solved a longstanding cryptography challenge, demonstrating that encrypted information could be thoroughly analysed, yet protected at the same time.

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