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IBM Masking Technology Hides Data

IBM has developed server-side software that can actually selectively mask--in real time--certain portions of sensitive data without modifying the source file. Called Masking Gateway for Enterprises (MAGEN), the software borrows its name from the Hebrew word for "shield" or "protection" and runs alongside other server and client applications. IBM designed the software for end-users who need to share sensitive material externally or internally, but not necessarily every aspect.

According to CNET News, MAGEN uses optical character recognition to identify information on the screen--treating the information on-screen as if it were a screenshot--that has been previously identified as confidential. The software thus places a mask over the information that needs to remain unseen much like those blur spots masking logos and naked body parts on TV. The software does not process, change, or copy any of the data.

"MAGEN provides a common solution for all applications, regardless of their operating system and communication protocols," said Tamar Domany, project leader at IBM's Haifa lab, in a statement. "The solution is completely generic and can be used with any data, any application, and for different levels of authorization."

IBM said that existing software usually makes copies of the information with the confidential portions already masked. Rather than creating more data by way of copying, MAGEN can mask sensitive data on the fly, making it a more secure option. Additionally, MAGEN can easily adapt to changing parameters including new users, new privacy regulations and more.

"Using optical character recognition technology and predefined configurations enables us to provide masking without changing the client applications," Domany said.

Currently MAGEN is at the proof-of-concept stage, however IBM has filed for patents on two aspects of the technology: its unique way to manipulate images and its function as a word scrambling system.