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.
- Data stolen from HealthCare.gov includes partial SSNs and immigration status
- USPS fixes online flaw that exposed the data of 60 million customers
- Yahoo agrees to pay $50M in damages for biggest-ever data breach
- Quora hit by data breach affecting around 100 million users
- Hackers target major airline in data breach affecting nearly 10M customers