Protecting minors online, a vital but tough case
Children are susceptible to online crime and abuse. The key to protecting these inexperienced internet users is to build more robust, easy-to-manage security and privacy features into browsers. EU-funded researchers are on the case.
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The ENCASE project is leveraging the latest advances in online security and privacy to design and implement a browser-based architecture for protecting youngsters from predators frequenting social networks, as well as other internet menaces.
Key to the new developments being explored by the Cyprus-led team is ease-of-use, so guardians, whether at home or school, can easily activate and manage browser settings.
To do this, they plan to develop a user-centric architecture (design, test and organise websites guided by user needs) focusing on distinct services, which can be combined to form what the team calls an effective protective net against, for example, cyber-bullying and lurid or abusive acts.
The tools under development include a browser add-on with corresponding back-end software that tracks users online activities for incidents of aggression and distress.
Once operational, this will be supported by a software stack that analyses social web data to detect and alert users of fraudulent activity, and another add-on that detects when a user is about to share sensitive content (e.g. photos or contact details) with potentially risky recipients. An instant warning will be issued to the user/guardian.
A further add-on will include controls and authentication lists for web surfers, such as watermarking, cryptography or steganography hiding messages or information within other text, data, and files. All browser add-ons and the back-end social web data analytics tools will be user tested in a series of pilots before being released to the public.
Key work will be carried out by experienced and early-stage researchers under the EU-funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie research and innovation staff exchange programme. The projects academic partners will contribute know-how on user experience, large-scale data processing, machine-learning, data-mining, and content confidentiality techniques. Meanwhile, industrial partners will provide expertise in production-grade software development and access to real-world online social network data and end-users.