IBM screen shield scrambles private data

"Thanks for holding. I'm just going to sell your credit card details to Uruguayan hackers."

Ever wonder just how much of your personal information call centre workers have access to?

The scary news is probably all of it, if a new security system from IBM research is anything to go by.

The MAGEN (Masking Gateway for Enterprises) software aims to mask sensitive information used in banking, health and government systems.

Character recognition security

MAGEN treats information on the screen as a picture, and relies on optical character recognition to determine which fields need to be blanked out or replaced with random values.

Unlike other solutions, MAGEN does not change the software program or the data itself - it filters the information before it ever reaches the PC screen - and doesn't force companies to create modified copies of electronic records where information is masked, scrambled, or eliminated.

The solution can be deployed on any type of system that uses a computer display, no matter which operating system, application or protocols are used.

IBM predicts MAGEN could be used by insurance companies that outsource customer service and claims processing functions to third parties, where MAGEN could hide private information so that it never appears on the agents' screens.

It can also partially hide data, such as on the screens of call centre customer service representatives, who only need enough data to access, confirm or update an account.