News Column

Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Unique Device Identification among Large Populations of Homogenous Devices", for Approval

July 3, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Politics & Government Week -- From Washington, D.C., VerticalNews journalists report that a patent application by the inventor Etchegoyen, Craig S. (Plano, TX), filed on December 2, 2013, was made available online on June 19, 2014.

No assignee for this patent application has been made.

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates generally to computer systems and, more particularly, to methods of and systems for uniquely identifying computing devices. More specifically, the invention relates to uniquely identifying a computing device by combining device data with personal information of a user of the computing device to form a personalized device fingerprint.

"Device identification through digital fingerprints has proven to be invaluable in recent years to such technologies as security and digital rights management. In security, authentication of a person can be restricted to a limited number of previously authorized devices that are recognized by their digital fingerprints. In digital rights management, use of copyrighted or otherwise proprietary subject matter can be similarly restricted to a limited number of previously authorized devices that are recognized by their digital fingerprints.

"Digital fingerprints are particularly useful in uniquely identifying computing devices that are historically known as 'IBM PC compatible'. Such devices have an open architecture in which various computer components are easily interchangeable with compatible but different components. There are two primary effects of such an open architecture that facilitate device identification through digital fingerprints.

"The first facilitating effect is diversity of device components. Since numerous components of IBM PC compatible devices are interchangeable with comparable but different components, generation of a digital fingerprint from data associated with the respective components of the device is more likely to result in a unique digital fingerprint.

"The second facilitating effect is discoverability of details of the various components of IBM PC compatible devices. Since the particular combination of components that make up a given device can vary widely and can come from different manufacturers, the components and the operating system of the device cooperate to provide access to detailed information about the components. Such information can include serial numbers, firmware version and revision numbers, model numbers, etc. This detailed information can be used to distinguish identical components from the same manufacturer and therefore improves uniqueness of digital fingerprints of such devices.

"Laptop computing devices evolved from desktop computing devices such as IBM PC compatible devices and share much of the architecture of desktop computing devices, albeit in shrunken form. Accordingly, while users are much less likely to replace graphics circuitry in a laptop device and components therefore vary less in laptop devices, laptop devices still provide enough detailed and unique information about the components of the laptop device to ensure uniqueness of digital fingerprints.

"However, the world of computing devices is rapidly changing. Smart phones that fit in one's pocket now include processing resources that were state of the art just a few years ago. In addition, smart phones are growing wildly in popularity. Unlike tablet computing devices of a decade ago, which were based on laptop device architectures, tablet devices available today are essentially larger versions of smart phones.

"Smart phones are much more homogeneous than older devices. To make smart phones so small, the components of smart phones are much more integrated, including more and more functions within each integrated circuit (IC) chip. For example, while a desktop computing device can include graphics cards and networking cards that are separate from the CPU, smart phones typically have integrated graphics and networking circuitry within the CPU. Furthermore, while desktop and laptop devices typically include hard drives, which are devices rich with unique and detailed information about themselves, smart phones often include non-volatile solid-state memory, such as flash memory, integrated within the CPU or on the same circuit board as the CPU. Flash memory rarely includes information about the flash memory, such as the manufacturer, model number, etc.

"Since these components of smart phones are generally tightly integrated and not replaceable, the amount and variety of unique data within a smart phone that can be used to generate a unique digital fingerprint is greatly reduced relative to older device architectures. In addition, since it is not expected that smart phone components will ever be replaced, there is less support for access to detailed information about the components of smart phones even if such information exists.

"Accordingly, it is much more difficult to assure that digital fingerprints of smart phones and similar portable personal computing devices such as tablet devices are unique. What is needed is a way to uniquely identify individual devices in large populations of homogeneous devices."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent application: "In accordance with the present invention, a digital fingerprint identifying a device includes characteristics of a user of the device. Accordingly, the device can be distinguished from other computing devices that are not readily distinguished by hardware characteristics alone. In effect, characteristics of respective users of homogeneous devices help distinguish the devices from one another.

"Digital fingerprints are best when they are unique, stable, and difficult to spoof. Accordingly, the personal characteristics used to form the digital fingerprint of the device are those that are likely not to change over time or to change in predictable ways. Examples of such personal characteristics are personal characteristics of the user that can be gathered from publicly available information from social networking sites, such as first and last name, city of residence, employer, relationship status, number of friends, age, etc.

"In addition, the personal characteristics are gathered from sources external to the device, such as profiles of the user stored remotely at a social networking site. As a result, it is difficult for one person to spoof characteristics of another person without also having the ability to modify the profile of the other person that is maintained externally to the device.

"Each constituent characteristic of a digital fingerprint is associated with extraction logic and comparison logic. The extraction logic of a given characteristic specifies the manner in which the substantive data of the characteristic is retrieved for incorporation into a digital fingerprint. To retrieve a characteristic, such as the number of friends of the user at a social networking site, the extraction logic can specify (i) the manner in which a user identifier for the social networking site is extracted from browser personal information such as browsing history, bookmarks, form filling data, and user identifiers; (ii) the manner in which a publicly available profile associated with the extracted user identifier is retrieved; and (iii) the manner in which the characteristic is parsed from the retrieved profile.

"While it is preferred that characteristics used to form digital fingerprints are stable and do not change over time, characteristics of a human user can and do change over time. The personal characteristics that are selected for use in forming digital fingerprints are those that are relatively stable and change primarily in predictable, expected ways. For example, a person's first name generally does not change, a person's last name changes rarely, a person's age increases by one each year, and a person's number of friends tends to only increase, and to increase at a modest rate. The comparison logic for each of these characteristics considers the way in which such characteristics can be expected to change over time and estimates a likelihood that two digital fingerprints identify one and the same device according to how well changes in each characteristic over time follows the expected pattern.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"Other systems, methods, features and advantages of the invention will be or will become apparent to one with skill in the art upon examination of the following figures and detailed description. It is intended that all such additional systems, methods, features and advantages be included within this description, be within the scope of the invention, and be protected by the accompanying claims. Component parts shown in the drawings are not necessarily to scale, and may be exaggerated to better illustrate the important features of the invention. In the drawings, like reference numerals may designate like parts throughout the different views, wherein:

"FIG. 1 is a diagram showing a computing device and a server that cooperate to identify the device in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

"FIG. 2 is a transaction flow diagram illustrating the manner in which the device and server computer of FIG. 1 cooperate to identify the device.

"FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a digital fingerprint specification used by the server to manage generation of the digital fingerprint of the device of FIG. 1 and comparison of the digital fingerprint to another digital fingerprint.

"FIGS. 4 and 5 are each a logic flow diagram of an illustrative example of extraction logic by which a part of a digital fingerprint is generated.

"FIG. 6 is a logic flow diagram illustrating the manner in which the device generates its digital fingerprint in a step of the transaction flow diagram of FIG. 2 in greater detail.

"FIG. 7 is a logic flow diagram illustrating the manner in which the server compares the digital fingerprint to another digital fingerprint in a step of the transaction flow diagram of FIG. 2 in greater detail.

"FIGS. 8 and 9 are each a logic flow diagram of an illustrative example of comparison logic by which a part of a digital fingerprint is compared to a corresponding part of another digital fingerprint.

"FIG. 10 is a block diagram showing in greater detail the server of FIG. 1.

"FIG. 11 is a block diagram showing in greater detail the device of FIG. 1."

For additional information on this patent application, see: Etchegoyen, Craig S. Unique Device Identification among Large Populations of Homogenous Devices. Filed December 2, 2013 and posted June 19, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=833&p=17&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140612.PD.&OS=PD/20140612&RS=PD/20140612

Keywords for this news article include: Patents.

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Source: Politics & Government Week


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