'Smell of Data' device sends out an odor when your data is leaking

At this point, everyone should know how important it is to stay safe online — if you fall for a phishing scam or similar, you are liable to end up having your identity stolen, which can have some pretty serious consequences. That said, personal security is only one facet of a bigger problem. We have seen sites and services hit by hackers all too often.

When online criminals target an organization, they are often able to gain access to lots user accounts at once, rather than just going after individuals. Sites like Have I Been Pwned? have been set up to allow users to check out whether their accounts have been compromised in the wake of a large-scale breach. Now, a new project called the Smell of Data aims to give internet users moment-to-moment updates on whether their private information is at risk of being leaked.

“The Smell of Data is a new scent developed as an alert mechanism for a more instinctive data,” explains a video on the project’s official website. “Smell data? Beware of data leaks. They can lead to privacy violation, behavior control, and identity theft.”

To utilize the Smell of Data, a scent dispenser is charged with the specially developed fragrance, and then connected to a smartphone, tablet, or computer via Wi-Fi. The device is able to detect when a paired system attempts to access an unprotected website on an unsecured network and will emit a pungent puff of the Smell of Data as a warning signal.

The concept is inspired by odorless, flammable gases that present a major safety risk without any external indicators. In 1937, an explosion at the New London School in Texas killed 295 people, prompting authorities to add a smell to these gases in order make leaks easier to detect. The Smell of Data works on a similar principle.

This project uses an outlandish idea to get across something very important and actionable: Just like an odorless gas leak, it is easy to turn a blind eye to our digital security. Accessing unprotected sites via unsecured networks is a risk, but it is one that many of us would take without much trepidation.

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