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Google And IU Strive For Net Trust

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An effort between the search advertising company and Indiana University aims at codifying trust factors to help people avoid scams online.

The Net Trust project in development by Indiana’s School of Informatics is being backed by Google’s Open Source Program Office. The work will be released under terms of the Apache license.

L. Jean Camp from the Net Trust project wrote at the Google Code blog how they would develop Net Trust as a trust mechanism rather than a security mechanism.

“Net Trust is designed to undermine fraud and credential subversion that use human engineering (also called pretexting) by building interfaces that make use of humans’ natural trust behaviors,” Camp wrote.

At the project’s website, Camp described her perception of how present-day efforts to thwart subversions of trust have largely failed:

Centralized trust authorities have proven unreliable (e.g., TRUSTe) and trust seals are easy to copy. In fact, multiple mechanisms which create a single trusted third party have failed to resolve impersonation problems, in part because single trusted third parties themselves lack context. Phishing is a profitable and growing segment of impersonation crime, despite the ubiquity of security and authentication in the form of SSL.


The ideal solution will show how trustworthy a web page may be, based on their social networks and “mediators of trust in different domains.” A representation of this solution in the form of a toolbar showed how trusted or untrusted that page would be based on the overall perceptions of a user’s networks and trust mediators.

“The system builds upon three features that cannot be altered without having read and write control of a users’ machine: user history, user preferences, and user social network,” wrote Camp.

Instead of a single-source solution, a Net Trust implementation draws upon several perspectives to help an individual make a judgment call. Perhaps the centralized authorities Camp has cited as unreliable could be part of the broader solution Net Trust would enable, as components of a whole approach to assessing trust.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Google And IU Strive For Net Trust
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