IBM’s sophisticated cryptographic algorithm protects your identity

IBM researchers revealed plans for a cloud-based technology, called Identity Mixer, that uses a cryptographic algorithm to encrypt the certified identity attributes of a user, such as their age, nationality, address and credit card number in a way that allows the user to reveal only selected pieces to third parties.

Identity Mixer can be used within a digital wallet, which contains credentials certified by a trusted third party, such as a government-issued electronic identity card. It’s important to note that the issuer of the credentials has no knowledge of how and when they are being used.

“Identity Mixer enables users to choose precisely which data to share, and with whom”, said Christina Peters, IBM’s Chief Privacy Officer. “Now web service providers can improve their risk profile and enhance trust with customers, and it’s all in the cloud, making it easy for developers to program.”

According to comScore, the average person spends nearly 25 hours per month using the Internet, accessing dozens of different Internet services, including banking, shopping and social networks. For virtually every service, users have to create a personal profile with a username and password — or for stronger security — cryptographic certificates. Although such tools can offer sufficient security for many purposes, they do not typically provide any level of privacy for the users, causing them to reveal more personal data than is necessary, which can be costly if it falls into the wrong hands.

“We wanted individuals to have control over what they reveal about themselves,”said, Dr. Anna Lysyanskaya, a co-inventor of Identity Mixer, who is currently a professor of computer science at Brown University. “With Identity Mixer now in the cloud, developers have a very strong cryptographic tool that makes privacy practical; it is a piece of software that you can incorporate into any identity management service enabling the service to verify that an individual is an authorized user without revealing any other personal information.”

European and Australian pilot programs demonstrate Identity Mixer potential

To demonstrate the new cloud version of Identity Mixer, IBM scientists are collaborating with academic and industrial partners in Europe and Australia in a new pilot project called Authentication and Authorization for Entrusted Unions (AU2EU). In a two-year, 8.6-million euro pilot, scientists will test Identity Mixer in two scenarios: in Germany with the Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (DRK, or the German Red Cross), and with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency.

As a major provider for regional home emergency call and social services in Germany, the DRK delivers tailored social care services to their customers 24/7, including emergency services, assisted mobility, housekeeping and nursing assistance. The organization has four million volunteers and professional staff, 52 hospitals and more than 500 nursing homes operated worldwide.

In the AU2EU pilot, 20 DRK test participants in the southwest of Germany will be equipped with sensors for in-home activity and status monitoring. The data gathered from these sensors will be transferred to a dedicated cloud server, where the data will be analyzed to determine the type of assistance required. In addition, DRK field representatives will be provided with a mobile device to collect and register sensitive customer data, such as medical records, medication and family contacts, to establish a service contract. Identity Mixer will be used to keep all of this data confidential and private. The technology will be implemented by NEC Europe and Tunstall Healthcare.

A second pilot will support one of the keys to Australia’s agricultural productivity and related export trade: its freedom from exotic diseases, particularly in animals. To maintain the nation’s disease-free status, the Australian government, along with key partners, has developed an emergency rapid response plan to take action quickly before an outbreak spreads. This plan involves swiftly bringing together government, academic and other research organizations, along with industry partners into a secure, trustworthy online collaborative environment that facilitates evidence-based decision making. Using Identity Mixer, the pilot will help facilitate the secure sharing of sensitive information in a timely matter across several remote locations and among collaborating partners.

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