Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ newsletters and blogs. She writes on a number of topics, including but not limited to geospatial, architecture, engineering and construction. As many technologies evolve and occasionally merge, Susan finds herself uniquely situated to be able to cover diverse topics with facility. « Less
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »
Authentic8: A Safer Browser Solution than VPN
Thom Kaye, federal program manager, Authentic8, spoke with GISCafe Voice about the company Authentic8.
Authentic8 was funded by the owner, Scott Petry, the CEO and cofounder of Authentic8 and Founder of Postini, based on the sale of Postini that was the largest acquisition made after YouTube – and ultimately became gmail. Authentic8 was designed to create a secure browsing experience for the user.
“In a nutshell, if you think about how commercial browsers work, they’re treating us not as customers but as their products,” said Kaye. “Commercial browsers use many different tactics to collect information on their users and sell that information to advertisers. Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer are all free, they do this by targeting advertising. This is our nexus to geography – determine your location and your hyper location. It is not just information such as, this person lives in a state or zip code, if you live in a small town then they can cross reference publicly available information like census data, and they can learn a lot of other things about you provided by the U.S. government.”
Kaye pointed out that these browsers can get down to the level of your town and watch your browsing habits, hence you see advertisements very relevant to your online purchases or searches. It is not just social media that is mining your data, but your browsers as well.
“My company decided that wasn’t acceptable so we did two things: there are a lot of browsers that allow you to turn off tracking mechanisms,” said Kaye. “We decided we were going to obfuscate your exact location. Our browser exists in the cloud known as a cloud browser. It obfuscates your location, turns off all tracking mechanisms so you can conduct online business or analysis without people learning who you are. All executable code that websites use is like Netflix where you choose what you want to watch by providing keyboard and keystrokes and it provides the information you want. It operates like any browser you’re using currently. You just see a video stream of your browser session. You can’t tell the difference between commercial and our browser. It is especially useful for people doing open source intelligence or analytics where they have to go to remote and unique websites around the world to collect information. A lot of these websites aren’t friendly to people collecting information and could execute code like malware. You won’t have to worry about any of the code from that website infecting your machines.”
Anyone who has watched the movie “The Great Hack” will recognize that Authentic8 is one of the answers to the world’s current and future technology and social problems.
Authentic8 is a commercial product, sold to the federal government and many large companies and financial firms, law offices and local governments. A lot of organizations see the benefit of removing commercial browsers off their network completely. Most of the phishing, malware, and ransomware comes through the browser. This cloud browser is a virtual browser that exists on your network, and anything you click on – whether purposefully or accidentally – will not affect your computer.
“The person at the keyboard doesn’t have to worry about what you click on, because you’re seeing a video rendition of a browser that exists on our networks and it can’t contain viruses or bad information sent to your screen,” said Kaye. “Your monitor is just a monitor for another machine. Some organizations have completely removed all their browsers from their machines and installed ours as the only way to access the internet. Click on an icon as usual and sign in.”
It makes sense that the federal government is Authentic8’s largest customer. As the government is interested in using and understanding open source information, Authentic8 eliminates the risks that come from browsing the open, deep and dark web.
For those concerned about security, Authentic8 has several redundancies throughout the world and several servers that will keep your information secure. To satisfy those organizations and the federal government who are concerned about protecting their information, the information you generate based on your browsing is encrypted and Authentic8 cannot access it. You are issued your own key to encrypt yourself (your organization's browsing data). This is the only way that information can be accessed.
For those who are doing research and going onto websites and gathering geospatial information from that website, you don’t have to worry about the code from those websites infecting your machine. If you are an open source geospatial analyst, you can also manage attribution that is seen at the website you are searching, so instead of appearing that you are from the U.S., for example (in a case where the U.S. may not be seen as a friendly country), you can make it appear that you come from Africa or another country.
The question is often asked, is Authentic8 a VPN? “A VPN may hide your location, but if you’re using that service where do you think all the executable code is saved to?” said Kaye. “Our solution is a safer solution than a VPN. VPN still executes code on your machine.”
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