Security Stud Kaminsky's Smartphone App a Blessing for Colorblind

Dan Kaminsky was pretty quiet last week considering there was a Black Hat security conference in DC, but maybe that's because his latest revelation isn't about IT security. It's about helping colorblind people to recognize the difference between colors such as red, green and brown.

Kaminsky is best known in IT circles for revealing at Black Hat during the summer of 2008 the so-called Kaminsky Bug -- a fundamental flaw in the Domain Name System protocol that would allow an attacker to massively disrupt the Internet. He also investigated the extent of the Sony Rootkit Scandal that hit about 5 years ago. And the big move to IPv6, the Internet's next generation protocol, will no doubt keep him busy on the security front as well.

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But Kaminsky is now making waves with DanKam, a $3.00 smartphone app for iPhones and Android phones that rolled out late last year and that has the colorblind praising him.

Kaminsky explains the augmented reality app on his blog and points to a few recent stories that have called attention to it, including a news report from NBC TV in the Bay Area. Several colorblind members of the media, including those at CNET and Forbes, have put the app to use to help explain its benefits.

Kaminsky is not colorblind, but was inspired to come up with the app after learning that a friend he was watching the 2009 film "Star Trek" with was unaware that a female character in the movie was green. Colorblindness is generally inherited and most common among men.

The basic concept of DanKam is that the app takes colors coming in through a smartphone's camera and accentuates them to make it more obvious to a colorblind person that red, for instance, is indeed red and not brown. So it helps the colorblind differentiate colors more easily.

While the app isn't specifically designed for tech applications, it can be useful for those who can't distinguish between LED colors on their computers or between the colors of characters in video games.

A flood of comments on Kaminsky's blog would make you think the security researcher and budding app developer is some kind of god:

• "If i had this app 15 years ago i could have been a pilot today."

• "I am a color blind web developer / GRAPHIC DESIGNER. This technology is like hearing a prosthetic arm could replace that useless nub where your shoulder should be. I need this product on my PC, and will donate money."

• "Dan – I am having trouble seeing b/c I'm in tears."

As for Kaminsky, he writes on his blog that this was a "secret side project" that he'd been working on for about a year. "It ain't security. Can't say I care. Trying to fix color blindness is most fun side project evar."

Other projects listed by Kaminsky on his blog include Phreebird, which is a DNSSEC proxy (DNSSEC is designed to snuff out the sort of cache poisoning attacks allowed by exploiting the Kaminsky Bug), and Interpolique, which protects against injection attacks.

I'm not nearly as inventive as Kaminsky, but I still invite you to follow me on Twitter, StumbleUpon and Facebook

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.

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