February 29, 2024

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U.S. Researchers Develop System to Encrypt Photos On the Cloud

A new study from U.S. computer scientists reveals what may be the first way to encrypt personal images on popular cloud photo services, all without requiring any changes to — or trust in — those services. Smartphones now make it easy for virtually everyone to snap photos. The limited amount of data that smartphones hold, and how they are vulnerable to accidental loss and damage, lead many users to store their images online via cloud photo services. Google Photos is especially popular, with more than a billion users.

However, these online photo collections are not just valuable to their owners, but to attackers seeking to unearth a gold mine of personal data. Security measures such as passwords and two-factor authentication may not be enough to protect these images anymore, as the online services storing these photos can themselves sometimes be the problem.

A potential solution to this problem would be to encrypt the photos so no one but the proper users can view them. However, cloud photo services are currently not compatible with existing encryption techniques.

Hence, U.S. Engineering researchers have created a way for mobile users to enjoy popular cloud photo services while protecting their photos. The system encrypts photos uploaded to cloud services so that attackers — or the cloud services themselves — cannot decipher them. At the same time, users can visually browse and display these images as if they were not encrypted. Even if the account is hacked, attackers cannot get the photos because they are encrypted.

The system employs an image encryption algorithm whose resulting files can be compressed and still get recognised as images, albeit ones that look like black and white static to anyone except authorised users. In addition, the system works for both lossy and lossless image formats such as JPEG and PNG and is efficient enough for use on mobile devices. Encrypting each image results in three black-and-white files, each one encoding details about the original image’s red, green, or blue data

Moreover, the system creates and uploads encrypted thumbnail images to cloud photo services. Authorised users can quickly and easily browse thumbnail galleries using image browsers that incorporate the system. The system adds an extra layer of protection beyond password-based account security. The goal is to make it so that only the owners’ devices can see their sensitive photos.

The researchers wanted to make sure that each user could use multiple devices to access their online photos if desired. The problem is the same digital code or key used to encrypt a photo has to be the same one used to decrypt the image. Users often do not understand keys and requiring them to move the keys around from one device to another is too complicated for users to use. They may also copy the key the wrong way and inadvertently give everyone access to their encrypted data.

Therefore, computer scientists developed an easy-to-use way for users to manage these keys that eliminates the need for users to know or care about keys. All a user has to do to help a new device access the encrypted photos is to verify it with another device on which they have already installed and logged into the system’s enabled app. This makes it possible for multiple trusted devices to still view encrypted photos.

The lead researcher said that right now is the beginning of a major technological boom where even average users move towards moving all their data into the cloud. This comes with great privacy concerns that have only recently started rearing their ugly heads, such as the increasing number of discovered cases of cloud service employees looking at private user data. Users should have an option to protect the data that they think is really important in these popular services, and this new system is just one practical solution for this.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

PARTNER

CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

PARTNER

Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

PARTNER

HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

PARTNER

IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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