Solving Visual Hacking

3m_privacy_hoodieThere is a little known–at least I don’t hear a lot of people talking about it–problem in the realm of security and privacy. It’s called “visual hacking”. Not a new idea, and indirectly it has been talked about many times at the Dark Android Project and on my science and tech show: Sovryn Tech.

It’s a simple matter, really. Someone stands over your shoulder, or next to you, or behind you, and looks at your phone or computer screen and is able to collect various information, passwords, data, etc. just by looking. That’s all “visual hacking” is. Nothing that really requires technology (though I suppose you could use binoculars or cameras).

This has long been an issue, particularly in business environments, and I imagine in hackerspaces and workshare areas, and solutions from companies like 3M have been around for a long time, and they add up to being a piece of film or hard plastic that rests over your screen that eliminates viewing angles from “visual hackers”, replacing the view of the screen with a dark or golden hue that can’t be seen through. It’s a clever idea.

And now computer giant (thought not so giant anymore) HP and 3M are going to start building this simple solution directly into laptops and smartphone screens (for more companies than just HP, of course). They’re not really doing anything new here as you can just buy the “privacy filters” to go over your screens right now, but in upcoming devices (starting in 2016, I believe) this will get put right onto the hardware.

It’s pretty rare on the Dark Android Blog that I’m actually happy about a new technological development–or in this case, inclusion–but building in privacy filters into the screen is a great idea. I’m not exactly sure why it wasn’t done before (other than maybe the NSA/FBI/GCHQ/etc. don’t need to worry about you covering your screen anymore, but I’m not saying I believe that). I don’t know that I’d say it’s worth buying a whole new device over if you like the laptop/smartphone/tablet that you have, but maybe you’ll want to get a “non built-in” privacy filter to put over your screen now.

Couldn’t hurt.

Carpe lucem!