Here, J.R. Rao, IBM Director for Research, why the idea of a digital guardian who watches for unusual behavior is not science fiction – but very close to reality.

Every year, IBM offers an annual list of five predictions of technologies which might affect our lives in five years’ time. This year’s Five in Five list included one prediction with a name – ‘’.

‘Steve’, IBM explain, is a ‘Digital Guardian’, who watches for people’s suddenly changing – IBM gave the example of a vegetarian ordering a hotdog – and uses this as a warning system for identity theft.

Here, J.R. Rao, IBM Director for Security Research, explains why the idea is not science fiction – but very close to reality.

Q: How would Steve work? Would he rely on people carrying a smart device?
A: Yes, this digital guardian would be an opt-in service in the cloud providing users with full control over how their data is used and viewed. And companies can leverage these technologies to help prevent fraud and better protect their end users against fraud, loss of information and protect privacy.

Q: The idea of ‘Steve’ is interesting – why personify him? Normally people prefer security to hide, rather than be like, say, Clippy?
A: “Steve” was simply being used in our graphics to illustrate how this technology can work. There will not be any names ascribed to this.

Q: Is this sort of behavioural ID security better than, say, biometrics?
A: This security technique isn’t necessarily “better” than biometrics, but rather could utilize biometrics, as well as other security and privacy technologies during the data collection, analysis and authentication process.

Q: What things which we use today could ‘Steve’ replace?
A: This digital guardian isn’t intended to replace technologies we use today, but rather intended to enhance and make better use of those technologies, tying them into one security solution – your digital guardian.

Q: Could a cybercriminal find a way round ‘Steve’? If so, what would Steve’s creator do?
A: As long as there are , there will always be attempts at accessing data. There are existing technologies that will help make sure the person – or entity – accessing personal data is who they say there are. For example, identity and access managers can help verify authenticity of a user on a network. IBM mobile technology, such as the mobile fraud, threat and malware detection can help keep mobile data .

Q: Won’t people be afraid of Steve – how much he knows – rather than reassured?
A: The digital guardian would be an opt-in service that you install yourself, and would only track/analyze what you permit. Companies are already dealing with “Big Data”; all information is already being collected. If you shop, engage in social media conversations, pay a bill online – all of your information is already being collected and analyzed. This technology would give customers the opportunity to opt-in to make use of that analysis, and better protect them from potential fraudulent use.

Q: Isn’t five years a bit long for this one? Now already uses this level of analytics – wouldn’t it make sense for, say, Glass to offer this as an app next year?
A: This technology prediction is made based on a combination of existing technology and work being done in IBM Labs. As the market for for security grows, new solutions will become available to help keep our private data safe, both from IBM and other companies.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of WLS nor ESET.

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