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Innovation in Information Security

Coverage of important Information Security and Information Technology news and events from the research team at S?nnet Beskerming.

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Gathering Information on Web Users

Behavioural analysis helps various professionals in their daily jobs, be they criminal profilers, detectives, teachers, marketing gurus, conmen, or some other professional role.

It has also been useful to online advertising providers, where they have used browsing history and other information to create profiles of likely site visitors / users, and so attempt to improve the relevance of the advertising provided to users.

Even some banking authentication systems are based on behavioural patterns associated with password entry - specifically based on typing patterns.

Now there are reports that Microsoft has developed technology designed to extend the existing tracking and generic identification methods used across the Internet in order to create more detailed profiles on Internet users (at least for those who use Microsoft products or visit appropriate sites). Through the use of increased probabilistic analysis, greater fidelity in terms of user types and identity is claimed. Microsoft's spiritual successor to PassPort, CardSpace, is also expected to contribute to any such end system.

Despite this research coming from Microsoft's research lab in China, the timing is very interesting given Microsoft's recent purchase of a major online advertising provider.

Aside from the expected critics that have slammed Microsoft's moves as pure evil, there have been many to point out that this is merely an extension of existing behaviour for many companies, so should not be totally unexpected. Where the key difference lies is in the level of access to end user's systems that Microsoft has - far more than any other comparable company.

Potential abuse of this access should be considered a real threat, as well as being illegal in many countries.

Fortunately this technology is only at the research stage, so there should be a few years before it makes it to market - enough time to refine exactly how and what information the systems collect.

23 May 2007

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