Saturday, 7 June 2014

IBM Identifies You By Your Web Surfing Style

IBM Fraud Detection Patent Services like 2Checkout protect online businesses against fraud by analyzing transactions for signs of fraud. IBM appears to be taking this concept to the next level. The company announced it has patented a new "user-browser interaction-based fraud detection system" that should help online and cloud-based businesses detect fraudulent behavior. According to the press release, this new technology can "help web site operators, cloud service providers and mobile application developers more efficiently and effectively detect and deal with threats by using analytics to thwart fraudsters."
You Are How You Surf
Just as some experts can spot a physical imposter by noticing a difference in gait, the IBM invention tracks minute details about the way users interact with the browser and website. Using some areas of the site more than others, navigating with the keyboard, sticking strictly with the mouse, swiping a tablet in a particular way...all of these small characteristics build up an overall profile that identifies you, the legitimate user.
A hacker who logs into your account will "look" completely different, so the detection system will send a warning. The secure site can respond by requiring additional authentication. Of course, false detections are possible. Keith Walker, IBM Master Inventor and co-inventor on the patent, noted that a change in interaction could be "due to a broken hand or using a tablet instead of a desktop computer," but pointed out that "such a change would more likely be due to fraud." In any case, a legitimate user will have no trouble providing additional authentication.
The Flip Side
Once IBM's technology has built its profile of your usual ways of interacting with websites, a hacker pretending to be you won't match the profile. But what if you want to surf the web anonymously? You can route your traffic through a world-spanning series of TOR servers, but it seems to me that you could still be identified using that same profile.
It wouldn't surprise me at all to hear that the NSA is licensing this technology. And how about those data brokers that the FTC wants to rein in? I'm sure they'd love the ability to identify you online just based on your distinctive characteristics.
I don't think we can put this genie back in the bottle. Yes, it will definitely help protect us against identity theft and fraudulent transactions. But it's another step closer to a world where anonymity no longer exists.

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