Three More Security Solutions
Promising weapons in the fight against identity thieves and computer-killing viruses
A way to use biometric security in your cellphone to verify your identity
Who: Carnegie Mellon CyLab
Problems addressed: Identify theft, fraud, unauthorized access
How it works: Before you can log on to, say, your online bank account, the computer sends a message to your phone to verify that you should have access to that account. You type a PIN into the phone and use the phone's camera to take a facial-recognition scan. The phone delivers the information to a server, which gives the go- ahead to your bank's Web site to let you log in. An early version of this system opens doors at CyLab today. The technology, named for telekinetic "X-Men" character Jean Grey, could ultimately replace passwords, security badges
and the keys in your pocket, says Mike Reiter, CyLab's technical director.
When: A few years
More info: www.cylab.cmu.edu
Software that can recognize and stop never-before-seen viruses
Who: Microsoft Research
Problem addressed: Rapidly spreading viruses
How it works: Vigilante is a small program that sits in a computer's memory and constantly scans for suspicious behavior. Once the program recognizes an attack, it generates a security alert to other machines on the network. They then create a
filter so they can identify any mutations of the attack and stop them from executing-
no human intervention needed. "If you want to contain fast-spreading attacks, humans simply can't be involved," says lead researcher Manuel Costa. "It takes them too much time to look at things."
More info: research.microsoft.com/vigilante
A system that confirms users without revealing personal data
Who: Internet2 consortium
Problems solved: Identity theft and protecting online privacy
How it works: Shibboleth passes on only the barest minimum of personal information needed to sign on to a site or to complete a transaction without your having to disclose your identity. Penn State University students use it to log on to a free legal music download site. Shibboleth ascertains that they're enrolled students without matching their names to the music they've downloaded. By giving out less information, you reduce your risk of identity theft, says Ken Klingenstein, director of Internet2's Middleware Initiative.
More info: shibboleth.internet2.edu
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.