Private Eye keeps prying eyes off your screen

Anyone who works in the government, or in any organization for that matter, can tell you that information security is a top priority. Countless dollars and hours have been spent securing network traffic, authenticating users, and generally keeping an organization’s data safe.

And all of this can be undone by someone looking over a remote user’s shoulder at the right moment — or the wrong moment, as the case may be.

Private Eye Software from Oculis Labs can help fill this often-overlooked security gap. Using a computer’s Web camera, it’s able to tell who is authorized to look at the screen, and make it visible only for those users.

Private Eye, developed in the CIA’s In-Q-Tel program, uses facial recognition software to keep track of its authorized users. While such a user is looking at the screen, it will remain legible. If that user looks away or leaves, the screen will blur after a predetermined length of time and remain that way until an authorized user is back in position.

It will even detect if there is another person looking over your shoulder. At this point, it will take one of two corrective actions, depending on how it’s set. One, it can blur the screen, just like it does when the authorized user leaves. Or, two, it can simply alert the authorized reader to the eavesdropper’s presence by showing their image in the corner of the display.

Private Eye can discern a snooper from up to 10 feet away, beyond which most people would not be able to get anything from what your screen is showing.

Since this is software controlling your display adapter, there are none of the problems associated with an external screen filter or similar solutions. And other than the webcam, no special equipment is needed.

We’ve tested a variety of these screen protectors over the years, everything from physical filters that could only be read when wearing polarized sunglasses to badges that locked down a computer when a user got too far away. In the case of the former, wearing sunglasses in the office wasn’t very practical, and the protection could be thwarted by simply peeling back the filter. In the latter, a user had to remember to keep his or her badge on them at all times, and this solution offered no protection from snoops watching nearby.

The Private Eye Software solves almost all the problems associated with over-the-shoulder espionage. It watches your back constantly. Users only have to remember to bring their own faces to work.

Given that almost every laptop sold today comes with an integrated webcam, this is a great way to add a unique layer of active security to any setup.

Oculis Labs is selling the stand-alone Private Eye Software for $20. At this price it could pay for itself rather quickly. For larger installations, the company also offers an Enterprise version. This version has many additional features that facilitate group policy management and tracks the software’s use across the network.

Many government organizations are looking into using this software, including the CIA. And why not? It offers a layer of actively scanning security for $20. That’s pretty much a no-brainer in the world of high security. Everyone can use someone watching their back.

Oculis Labs,

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.


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