Securing digital identities in mobile devices and virtual communities

Securing digital identities in mobile devices and virtual communitiesSurveys and polling data confirm that the Internet is now a prime vehicle for business, community, and personal interactions. The notion of identity is the important component of this vehicle.

When users interact with services on the Internet, they often tailor the services in some way for their personal use.

In addition, we have organizational and software procedures that facilitate the exchange of interpersonal information in social networking sites, instant messaging, bulletin boards, online role–playing games, computer–supported collaborative work and online education.

All of these applications fit into the larger category of social media that supports virtual community. As we increasingly rely on this cyberspace, the issue of identity management including privacy protection in such a virtual community is also critically important. Furthermore, the weakness of the current identity management is often exploited on unsuspecting users and mobile devices through various malware.

Gail-Joon Ahn, an associate professor of computer science and engineering in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, and director of the Laboratory of Security Engineering for Future Computing (SEFCOM, http:/, investigates usable and effective identity management solutions for mobile devices and virtual communities.

His research on identity management focuses on user-centric management of multiple personas while examining and reverse-engineering various malware that can exploit weaknesses and vulnerabilities in mobile devices and social networks.

This research has been supported by two research awards from the National Science Foundation and an award from an industry partner. Furthermore, his recent invention on identity management has been licensed to Open Invention Network, LLC whose customers include IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony and resulted in seven pending patent applications and news story in Yahoo! Finance.

In addition, his research team at SEFCOM has proposed an innovative approach to manage and share digital contents in social networks, accommodating multiparty concerns.

Ahn’s research could prove invaluable to users of virtual communities and mobile devices who currently face many potential security issues. With the growing popularity of these communities and devices, Ahn believes his research could have a significant impact.

“Identity management has recently received considerable attention since it lacks a usable and effective method for handling user credentials,” Ahn states. “Our approach seeks a way to solve critical security issues such as identity theft, fraud and privacy concerns related to all mobile computing devices and virtual communities.”