Identity, security – and children

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Last issue I warned, er, told you about Mattel’s “Barbie Girls” identity token device, designed to protect your child from on-line predators – and only $60 per user. But someone else wants to do something similar – and they don’t want to charge you.

Uniloc USA, (whose motto is “the computer is the password”) has been active in the multifactor strong authentication market with reasonable success. But now, they’re trotting out the “protect our most valuable resource, our children” mantra, and hope to corner the market in child-protection for social networking sites.

Uniloc’s technology is similar to that used by Microsoft for it’s licensing. It calculates a hardware footprint from the various subsystems in your PC, then uses that calculation as part of the authentication process when you log on to the network. Simply changing a network card, or a hard drive, won’t invalidate the calculated value so it’s going to be difficult to alter the hardware signature of your PC. That’s the selling point for the social networks.

Let’s say there’s a social networking site called Kids Place. They license the technology from Uniloc. Users of Kids Place then register with pcandme.com (Uniloc’s Web site for the “protect the children” technology) and install the signature software (at no charge). When the child goes to Kids Place, they can only interact with others who are registered at pcandme.com. Further, if any registered user misbehaves, their PC can be instantly removed from the Kids Place environment. And because Kids Place knows the digital signature of that PC, it can be permanently blocked from establishing a new account with Kids Place.

It’s not as inane as the “Barbie Girls” idea, but it’s also not foolproof. It is possible to reconfigure the PC so that a different digital signature would be created. How often someone could do this I have no idea, but it can be done. Still, the protection offered by pcandme.com is certainly better than nothing. Coupled with good parenting, it might very well prevent any untoward incidents from occurring. Remember, though, that the good parenting is the most important part – as we often say here, the technology is easy – it’s the people that are the hard part.

Editor's note: Starting Monday, Nov, 19, this newsletter will be renamed "Security: Identity Management Alert." Subscribers to the HTML version of this newsletter will notice some enhancements that will provide you with access to more resources relevant to identity management. You will still receive Dave Kearns' analysis of this market, which you will be able to read in its entirety online at NetworkWorld.com, along with links to relevant news headlines of the day. We hope you enjoy the enhancements and we thank you for reading Network World newsletters.

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