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Electronic Citadel

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The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) calls for a fresh approach to protect credit card details from Internet crackers.

According to the SIIA, many businesses today implement an 'eggshell' security model: hard on the outside and soft in the centre. The problem is that there is often little or nothing to prevent hackers from accessing sensitive customer records - once they breach firewall defences.

A technology working group of the SIIA's ebusiness division has come up with an concept called the Electronic Citadel. Sensitive data is encrypted so that it can be validated at any time in the future but the original information may only be recovered during a defined period of time. This is described as the final barrier to protect sensitive data when other defences have been breached.

Many of the ideas in the approach are taken from the builders of military fortifications in the 1800s, the SIAA claims, in a metaphorical flight of fancy.

These builders knew that the most effective defence from intruders was to layer barriers to weaken and stop attackers, while constructing a stone fortress at the heart of the citadel, as a final obstacle to a would-be attacker.

Applying the ideas used to defend against musket-bearing armies to fight off attacks from s'kiddies is an interesting concept and it'll be intriguing to see whether a practical security model is developed, or it remains a footnote in security literature.

The Electronic Citadel method is very much in draft stage, even though many of the cryptographic techniques it applies are well-established.

A white paper on the subject: An Electronic Citadel: A Method for Securing Credit Card and Private Consumer Data in e-Business Sites, which focuses on the architecture, processes and benefits of the citadel method of protecting consumer data, is available for free download from here.

The paper, which has been placed in the public domain with the hope that developers will take up its ideas, was written by Tom Arnold, chief technology officer of CyberSource Corporation and chair of the technology working group of the SIIA ebusiness Division. He was motivated to write about the subject after his own credit card details were obtained from an ecommerce site's database.

The SIAA represents 1,000 software firms. ®

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Related Links

Electronic Citadel white paper
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