IBM Research – Haifa has developed software that more efficiently and effectively hides sensitive or personal information that might otherwise appear on the computer screens of unauthorized personnel.

The software could prove particularly useful for security conscious fields such as healthcare, insurance, government or financial services. When refined and fully developed, this technology — dubbed MAGEN (Masking Gateway for Enterprises, and the Hebrew word for shield) – might help organizations better comply with privacy laws, and lessen the vulnerability of information to theft.

In the course of developing the MAGEN proof-of-concept, IBM applied for at least two US patents, including one for unique ways of manipulating images, and one for scrambling words. MAGEN treats information on the screen as a picture, and relies on optical character-recognition technology to determine which onscreen fields need to be blanked out or replaced with random values.

Unlike other solutions, MAGEN does not change the software program or the data itself — it filters the information before it ever reaches the PC screen — and does not force companies to create modified copies of electronic records where information is masked, scrambled, or eliminated.

This results in an extremely fast and flexible system. If companies had to create and store modified copies, the process would be relatively expensive and slow, as well as take up valuable electronic storage space.