May 25, 2011

Pocket Enigma machine to boost computer security

A Cambridge startup is about to launch a new product to give computers extra protection against hackers.

Category: General
Posted by: dc352

The company is seeking volunteers to act as early adopters to give feedback on the smart device’s usability before its full launch.

ideaSpace company Smart Architects is about to launch the sCrib – a memory stick-style device which stores ultra secure passwords.

The pocket-sized Enigma machine produces secure 20 character passwords. The device plugs into the USB port of your computer and, at the touch of a button, enters the password the user selected.

Designer Dr Dan Cvrcek, a former banking security specialist, explained how the device works: “Many companies and e-commerce businesses struggle with password security. They either end up with passwords easy to guess by hackers or passwords people cannot remember.

“There’s also a tendency to break security rules by writing reminders on post-its, even fixing the passwords to laptops.

“Other firms opt for so-called two factor authentication, a combination of a unique short code set by the user, and a more complicated code generated by a token. These systems are however expensive and difficult to use.

“The sCrib gets round this by creating and storing secure passwords for users and it also enables two-factor authentication with minimum cost.”

Dr Cvrcek, who spent more than a decade in academia researching technology and IT security issues, says the device could also prevent key logging attacks.

“One of the major threats to security is key logging. A hacker can access a PC, via an email or a compromised web site, and plant a small programme which can record every key press a user makes,” he adds.

“This makes it easy for them to gain passwords to access secure systems. The sCrib prevents this as key logging software is unable to get an accurate read as to what is being input.

“The feedback we have had from firms has been very positive, but we would like to get more people to try out the device to help us make enhancements as we build towards a commercial launch.”

Smart Architects is also in the process of refining the product design before its full launch later this year.