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Encryption Tool Maps Database Fields

The Access Control Toolkit, built on Java and open-source tools including SQL and OWL parsers, acts as a filter for data being electronically shared between companies.

Pennsylvania State University researchers say they have developed a software tool that dramatically improves the process of automatically mapping database fields. They say it also encrypts the information with access controls and tokens to share the data safely across multiple organizations.

The Access Control Toolkit (PACT) built on Java and open source tools, such as SQL and OWL parsers, acts as a filter for data being electronically shared between companies, a Penn State professor said Wednesday.

Government agencies and corporations often access or share data belonging to other organizations. But sharing data electronically proves difficult because databases are typically constructed with fields and objects that use different terms or vocabularies.

Penn State University professor Prasenjit Mitra said companies don't have a standard method to setup database fields. Some companies might use separate columns to identify the person's "first name" and "last name," while others combine both fields. For example, programmers typically need to manually code requirements that translate separate "last" and "first" name fields into one table before electronically sharing information between companies.

PACT also allows companies to implement access controls for employees in other companies that rely on the data before the information is sent, Mitra said. "I don't mean controlling access in one organization or one set of databases, but across various organizations that use different object vocabularies," he explains. "We now have the ability to integrate information from databases in different while implementing access control across organizations."

Researchers have built the tool set for use with any application, said Mitra. PACT addresses security concerns through encryption and access controls. "The software has query and translation algorithms that check for access controls and requires a set of mapping rules to run," he said.

Mitra believes PACT provides the first software framework to protect metadata shared between companies. PACT is described in a paper, ‘Privacy-preserving Semantic Interoperation and Access Control of Heterogeneous Databases,’ given at ACM's recent Symposium on Information, Communication and Computer Security in Taiwan.

The authors include Mitra, a faculty member in the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST); Chi-Chun Pan, a graduate student in Penn State 's industrial and manufacturing engineering department; Peng Liu, assistant professor, Penn State 's IST; and Vijay Atluri, associate professor, Rutgers University .

The researchers will make the software available under the open source General Public License (GPU) agreement on a limited basis.

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