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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
DATA MESSAGE SHARING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/206524
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A computer implemented method of sharing a data message containing multiple data fields between a provider computer system and a consumer computer system, wherein the provider and consumer computer systems have mutual mistrust, the method comprising: responsive to an authentication of the provider computer system, receiving a definition of one or more fields in the data message accessible to the consumer computer system, each field having associated a cryptographic key; responsive to an indication from a data storage server that a ciphertext of the data message is requested to be stored in the data storage server including a derivative of an identifier of the provider computer system, confirming the authenticity of the ciphertext by confirming the authenticity of the derivative, wherein each field of the ciphertext is encrypted using a corresponding cryptographic key; responsive to an authentication of the consumer computer system, issuing the consumer computer system with a cryptographic key for each of the fields in the data message accessible to the consumer computer system, such that the consumer computer system is operable to obtain the ciphertext from the data storage server and to decrypt the one or more accessible data fields and such that other data fields being non-accessible to the consumer are encrypted to anonymise such other data fields.

Inventors:
GIUBILO, Fabio (Ground Floor, Faraday Building 1 Knightrider Street, London EC4V 5BT, EC4V 5BT, GB)
EL-MOUSSA, Fadi (Ground Floor, Faraday Building 1 Knightrider Street, London EC4V 5BT, EC4V 5BT, GB)
SHACKLETON, Mark (Ground Floor, Faraday Building 1 Knightrider Street, London EC4V 5BT, EC4V 5BT, GB)
Application Number:
EP2019/056886
Publication Date:
October 31, 2019
Filing Date:
March 19, 2019
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
BRITISH TELECOMMUNICATIONS PUBLIC LIMITED COMPANY (81 Newgate Street, London EC1A 7AJ, EC1A 7AJ, GB)
International Classes:
H04L29/06; G06F21/60; G06F21/62; H04L9/08; H04L9/32
Foreign References:
GB2472491A2011-02-09
US20150222606A12015-08-06
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BRITISH TELECOMMUNICATIONS PUBLIC LIMITED COMPANY, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DEPARTMENT (Ground Floor, Faraday Building 1 Knightrider Street, London EC4V 5BT, EC4V 5BT, GB)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A computer implemented method of sharing a data message containing multiple data fields between a provider computer system and a consumer computer system, wherein the provider and consumer computer systems have mutual mistrust, the method comprising: responsive to an authentication of the provider computer system, receiving a definition of one or more fields in the data message accessible to the consumer computer system, each field having associated a cryptographic key;

responsive to an indication from a data storage server that a ciphertext of the data message is requested to be stored in the data storage server including a derivative of an identifier of the provider computer system, confirming the authenticity of the ciphertext by confirming the authenticity of the derivative, wherein each field of the ciphertext is encrypted using a corresponding cryptographic key;

responsive to an authentication of the consumer computer system, issuing the consumer computer system with a cryptographic key for each of the fields in the data message accessible to the consumer computer system, such that the consumer computer system is operable to obtain the ciphertext from the data storage server and to decrypt the one or more accessible data fields and such that other data fields being non-accessible to the consumer are encrypted to anonymise such other data fields.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein the derivative of the identifier of the provider computer system is a hash or digest of an identifier of the provider.

3. The method of any preceding claim wherein communication with each of the provider and consumer computer systems is encrypted using separate session keys.

4. The method of any preceding claim wherein the step responsive to the authentication of the consumer further comprises communicating a derivative of the data message to the consumer computer system such that the consumer computer system can identify the data message to the data storage server for retrieval thereof.

5. The method of claim 4 wherein the derivative of the data message is a hash or digest of the data message.

6. The method of any preceding claim wherein at least some of the data fields in the data message are unencrypted.

7. A computer system including a processor and memory storing computer program code for performing the steps of any preceding claim.

8. A computer program element comprising computer program code to, when loaded into a computer system and executed thereon, cause the computer to perform the steps of a method as claimed in any of claims 1 to 6.

Description:
Data Message Sharing

The present invention relates to methods of sharing data messages containing sensitive data.

In IT security, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems generate security data concerning threats, vulnerabilities, attacks and the like. SIEM systems generate SIEM data including, for example, network and system log files on which basis security analysis to identify, assess, monitor and respond to threats is undertaken for a computer system. It is increasingly desirable for multiple systems to share SIEM data to provide greater scope of insight of security-related data. For example, a first system may share SIEM data with a second system where the second system provides a SIEM data analysis service that may, for example, identify high-risk threats and opportunities for mitigation.

Challenges arise when sharing SIEM data between computer systems where the systems do not enjoy a trusted relationship because the nature of SIEM data is such that it can include highly sensitive information including names, e-mail addresses, IP addresses, identification of software and/or services executing in a system and the like. The sensitivity of such information is especially acute in view of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which imposes strict controls on the receipt, storage, use and distribution of personal information. The challenge is emphasised where multiple systems communicate and the degree of trust between pairs of systems differs such that data that is anonymised for one system need not be anonymised for another.

Accordingly, it would be beneficial to provide for the benefits of effective sharing of SIEM data while assuring the security of sensitive data.

The present invention accordingly provides, in a first aspect, a computer implemented method of sharing a data message containing multiple data fields between a provider computer system and a consumer computer system, wherein the provider and consumer computer systems have mutual mistrust, the method comprising: responsive to an authentication of the provider computer system, receiving a definition of one or more fields in the data message accessible to the consumer computer system, each field having associated a cryptographic key; responsive to an indication from a data storage server that a ciphertext of the data message is requested to be stored in the data storage server including a derivative of an identifier of the provider computer system, confirming the authenticity of the ciphertext by confirming the authenticity of the derivative, wherein each field of the ciphertext is encrypted using a corresponding cryptographic key; responsive to an authentication of the consumer computer system, issuing the consumer computer system with a cryptographic key for each of the fields in the data message accessible to the consumer computer system, such that the consumer computer system is operable to obtain the ciphertext from the data storage server and to decrypt the one or more accessible data fields and such that other data fields being non-accessible to the consumer are encrypted to anonymise such other data fields.

Preferably, the derivative of the identifier of the provider computer system is a hash or digest of an identifier of the provider.

Preferably, communication with each of the provider and consumer computer systems is encrypted using separate session keys. Preferably, the step responsive to the authentication of the consumer further comprises communicating a derivative of the data message to the consumer computer system such that the consumer computer system can identify the data message to the data storage server for retrieval thereof.

Preferably, the derivative of the data message is a hash or digest of the data message. Preferably, at least some of the data fields in the data message are unencrypted.

The present invention accordingly provides, in a second aspect, a computer system including a processor and memory storing computer program code for performing the steps of the method set out above.

The present invention accordingly provides, in a third aspect, a computer program element comprising computer program code to, when loaded into a computer system and executed thereon, cause the computer to perform the steps of the method set out above.

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figure 1 is a block diagram a computer system suitable for the operation of embodiments of the present invention;

Figure 2a is a conceptual illustration of communications between entities in accordance with embodiments of the present invention;

Figure 2b is a conceptual illustration of data message providers and consumers arranged for sharing data messages in accordance with embodiments of the present invention; Figure 3 is a flowchart of a method of sharing a data message between a provider and consumer in accordance with embodiments of the present invention; Figure 4 illustrates an exemplary data message having multiple data fields in an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 5 illustrates an exemplary data sharing agreement (DSA) for consumers

embodiments of the present invention; Figures 6, 7 and 8 illustrate exemplary anonymised data messages for consumers in an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 9 is a flowchart of a method of accessing a data message in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.

Embodiments of the present invention include a communication protocol and key derivation function for encrypting selective parts of SIEM data records using an onion-skin encryption methodology (e.g. nested encrypted elements utilising multiple keys) for anonymising parts of the encryption. Keys can be distributed to receiving systems via a novel protocol which uses trusted intermediaries to provide features of: assurance that messages are genuine; protection of sender identity; and assurance of anonymity of a message payload. In this way, SIEM data containing sensitive information can be selectively anonymised in a targeted manner (such as by receiver) and communicated reliably to receiver systems without compromising the sensitive information.

Figure 1 is a block diagram of a computer system suitable for the operation of

embodiments of the present invention. A central processor unit (CPU) 102 is

communicatively connected to a storage 104 and an input/output (I/O) interface 106 via a data bus 108. The storage 104 can be any read/write storage device such as a random access memory (RAM) or a non-volatile storage device. An example of a non-volatile storage device includes a disk or tape storage device. The I/O interface 106 is an interface to devices for the input or output of data, or for both input and output of data. Examples of I/O devices connectable to I/O interface 106 include a keyboard, a mouse, a display (such as a monitor) and a network connection.

Figure 2a is a conceptual illustration of communications between entities in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. A provider computer system 200 is a physical, virtualised or component of a computer system configured to provide data messages such as SIEM data records for sharing with potentially untrusted other computer systems. The data messages contain multiple data fields, at least some of which include sensitive information that requires anonymisation, such as personal information, identification information or the like. The data messages are provided for receipt by a consumer computer system 202, and a determination of whether a data field requires anonymisation depends on the consumer computer system 202 such that, for example, a level of trust of the consumer 202 is used to determine if a data field in the message is to be anonymised. Anonymisation of a data field includes obfuscating data stored in the data field such that original data stored in the data field cannot be discerned. An anonymisation server 204 is provided has a hardware, software, firmware, physical or wholly or partly virtualised component for providing sharing of data between the provider 200 and the consumer 202. The anonymisation server 204 is trusted by each of the provider 200 and the consumer 202 though there is mutual mistrust between the consumer 202 and the provider 200. The anonymisation server provides authentication of each of the provider 200 and the consumer 202 and implements a data sharing agreement (DSA) on behalf of the provider 200.

A DSA is determined based on a definition of one or more fields in the data message of the provider 200 accessible to the consumer 202. The DSA can be realised by, for example, a cryptographic key such as a symmetric key for each of one or more fields in the data message such that access to the fields by the consumer 202 can be controlled by provision of selected keys dependent on the determined accessible fields. Thus, fields in the data message can be encrypted using the keys as a mechanism for anonymising the data and access to the data can be controlled by controlling access to the keys.

Notably, the anonymisation server 204 does not store the data message having fields encrypted by the provider 200. Rather, a secure storage server 206 is provided, the storage server 206 storing data messages (including their encrypted data fields) while having no access to keys required for access thereto. Thus, the secure storage server 206 maintains no relationship with the provider 200 or the consumer 202. Most preferably, the provider 200 and the consumer 202 also do not identify themselves to the secure storage server 206 such that the secure storage server 206 is unable to monitor or track entities storing and/or accessing data therein. For example, the provider 200 can communicate a derivative of its identifier (such as a hash or digest of an identifier of the provider 200) to the storage server 206 as an anonymised identification of the provider 200. The storage server 206 is adapted to confirm an authenticity of data messages requested for storage therein by confirming such derivative of an identity of the provider 200 is verifiable by the anonymisation server 204. In this way, there is no coupling between the provider 200, the consumer 202 and the storage server 206.

Thus, in use, the provider 200 authenticates with the anonymisation server 204 and defines a DSA for storage therein. The provider 200 further requests storage of a data message including one or more encrypted data fields in the storage server 206, which authenticates the provider 200 by a derivative of an identifier of the provider 200 with reference to the anonymisation server 204. Subsequently, the consumer 202 can request (or be informed of) information on data message(s) available for it at the secure storage server 206 by authenticating with the anonymisation server 204. The anonymisation server 204 can identify individual messages by a derivative thereof, such as a digest or hash provided by the provider 200. The anonymisation server 204 further issues the consumer 202 with cryptographic keys for access to authorised fields in a data message in accordance with the DSA. Subsequently, the authenticated consumer 202 requests a data message from the storage server 206 based on the derivative of the message (such as a hash or digest) provided by the anonymisation server 204.

In this way, there need be no trust between the consumer 202 and the provider 200 and the secure storage server 206 need have no knowledge of either entity. The mutually trusted anonymisation server 204 provides for the enforcement of granular access control to data fields of the data message based on the DSA provided by the provider 200 and using cryptographic keys to control field access by the consumer 202. Thus, data messages including sensitive information can be shared between providers and consumers without compromising the security of the sensitive information.

Figure 2b is a conceptual illustration of data message providers and consumers arranged for sharing data messages in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.

Potentially multiple providers Ai to A n are willing to provide data messages. The data messages are anonymised in such a way the anonymisation process is bound to a consumer according the provider specification in a DSA. For example, in the arrangement of Figure 2b there is a list of potential senders A and two different consumers, such as two different third party data analysis services for the analysis of computer network security data. Consumer 1 wishes to perform a collaborative analysis by using the data of providers Ai, A 3 and A 5 .

Consumer 2 uses the data of providers A 2 , A 3 and A 4 .

Figure 3 is a flowchart of a method of sharing a data message between a provider 200 and consumer 202 in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. The method is meant for the secure exchange of a certain data message from a provider 200 to a consumer 202. The method provides:

• The provider’s identity is preserved/hidden from the consumer by using, for example, an authenticated cryptographic hash digest using two further entities - the

anonymisation server 204 and the secure storage server 206 - acting as guarantor and repository respectively. • The consumer is assured that a data message is genuine, truly valuable, and sent by an authenticated provider.

• Privacy of the data message is strongly held (even if the secure storage server 206 is compromised, attacked or leaked) due to the particular method of embodiments of the present invention. In particular:

o The anonymisation server 204 is trusted with knowledge of the provider 200 and consumer 202 identity and encryption key(s) but not the data messages themselves.

o The secure storage server 206 will store the data messages with fields

encrypted by the provider 200 according to a defined DSA. The storage server 206 does not have knowledge of the encryption keys required to access encrypted data fields.

o Consumers will receive encryption keys for authorised data fields in data

messages according to the DSA. The identity of a provider 200 of a data message may not be available to a consumer 202.

The method of Figure 3 will now be described for the storage and retrieval of a data message in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. Initially, at step 302, the provider 200 authenticates with the anonymisation server 204 at step 304. At step 306 the provider 200 defines a DSA for recordal and enforcement by the anonymisation server 204 at step 308. At step 310 the provider 200 requests storage of a ciphertext (CT) of the data message at the secure storage server 206. The ciphertext is the data message encrypted according to the DSA such that one or more encryption keys are utilised to encrypt each of one or more (including potentially a subset) of fields of the data message. At step 312, the storage server 206 first authenticates the request from the provider 200. The provider 200 communicates a derivative of an identifier of the provider 200 to the storage server 206 which the storage server uses to authenticate the provider 200 by the anonymisation server 204 at step 314. At step 316 the storage server 206 validates the ciphertext, stores and confirms to the anonymisation server 204, sending some derivative (e.g. a hash or digest) of the ciphertext to the anonymisation server 204. The Anonymisation server 204 records the derivative of the ciphertext at step 318 and confirms ciphertext storage to the provider 200 at step 320. At step 322 the consumer 202 authenticates with the anonymisation server 204 which then provides cryptographic keys to the consumer 202 according to the DSA of the provider 200 at step 324. The anonymisation server 204 also sends a digest (or other derivative) of any data messages stored in the storage server 206 by the provider 200 accessible to the consumer 202 according to the DSA. At step 326 the consumer requests the ciphertext of the data message from the storage server 206 based on the digest (or other derivative) provided by the anonymisation server. The storage server 206 retrieves and sends the ciphertext at step 206 for receipt by the consumer 202 at step 330.

Considering the method of Figure 3 in more detail, the steps of the method of Figure 3 will be further described in terms of the steps indicated by the arrowed lines between the entities of Figure 2a. Taking each step in turn:

1. The provider 200 sends a message encrypted with a certified public key of the

anonymisation server (doing so, the confidentiality over the message is held and also “Man In The Middle attacks” are countered). The message contains the identifier of the provider, its password, a nonce to provide freshness and prevent replay attacks, and a new fresh symmetric key (sessionK A ) generated by the provider 200 (a session key) and its lifetime (lifetime sessionKa ) which essentially can be a timestamp of the key, when the key has been generated, and how long will it be valid.

2. The anonymisation server 204, receiving message 1 , authenticates the provider 200 and replies with an acknowledge message, encrypted with the symmetric (secret) session key that the provider 200 sent in message 1 (sessionK A ). The reply message payload is a digital signature (the hash digest encrypted with the private key) over the whole message 1 .

3. The provider 200 sends a message to the anonymisation server 204 containing: an identifier of the provider 200, a new nonce, the data sharing agreement (DSA), the hashed value or digest of a cipher-text of a data message, (H(C) J the J superscript means the might be more than one), a secret (symmetric) master key (sK ma ster, used to encrypt/anonymise the data message) and its lifetime. This time the message is encrypted using the session key of the provider 200.

4. The anonymisation server 204 acknowledges message 3 with the same message structured used for message 2.

5. The provider 200 sends a submission-request message to the secure storage server 206 encrypted using a certified public key of the storage server 206. The submission- request message contains the hash digest of an identity of the provider 200 (H(ID A ), in doing so the provider 200 will not reveal its identity to the storage server 206 and will remain anonymous. Preferably, the storage server 206 is stateless and does not keep track of entity activity), the identifier of the storage server (I DUP), the cipher-text (C J , the data message encrypted using the master secret key, the J superscript means there might be more than one) and the lifetime associated to the cipher-text.

6. When the storage server 206 receives a submission-request message (any

occurrence of message 5), a‘submission event’ is triggered. The storage server 206 sends a message to the anonymisation server 204 containing an identifier of the storage server 206, an identifier of the anonymisation server 204 and the hash digest of the provider’s identity. The message is encrypted by using a strong symmetric key shared between the storage server 206 and the anonymisation server 204 (SKUP S , long term key). This message represents a‘challenge request’ to validate the message previously received by the storage server 206 from the provider 200 (it might be thought of as a message from the storage server 206 to the anonymisation server 204 asking“I don’t know this consumer H(ID A ), can I trust it? Is it allowed to submit?”).

7. The anonymisation server 204, receiving the challenge-request message from the storage server, performs a look-up operation in its database based on the hash digest of the provider 200 provided by the storage server. A match of the provider 200 will be found and the anonymisation server 204 will respond to the storage server 206 with a challenge-response message containing the hash digest of the cipher-text of the data message of the provider 200 plus the identifiers of the synchronisation server 204 and the storage server 206. This message is again encrypted by using the shared secret key between the storage server 206 and the anonymisation server 204 (SKUP s , long term key).

8. The storage server 206, receiving the challenge-response message from the provider 200, performs a validation test: it computes the hash digest over the cipher-text received at message 5 and compares with the one received from the provider 200, if they match then the cypher-text is securely stored and an acknowledge message is sent back to the anonymisation server 204. The provider 200 has been successfully authenticated without revealing its identity to the storage server 206.

9. The anonymisation server 204, receiving the acknowledge message from the storage server 206, sends an acknowledge message to the provider 200 to confirm that the cipher-text of the data message was successfully submitted, stored and is available from the storage server 206. The message contains the identifiers of the provider 200 and the anonymisation server 204 plus the digital signature of the cipher-text submitted.

10. The consumer 202 periodically checks with the anonymisation server 204 if there is any message available. First the consumer 202 authenticates itself with the anonymisation server 204, sending a message encrypted with the certified public key of the anonymisation server 204 containing the consumer’s 202 identifier, the consumer’s 202 password, a new nonce and a new fresh secret session key generated by the consumer 202 with an associated lifetime (as for the provider 200 at message 1 ). 1 1 . The anonymisation server 204, receiving the message from the consumer 202, first authenticates the consumer 202, then if any message for the consumer 202 is found in the DSA sends the hash digests H(C) J of the cipher-text messages to the consumer 202 and the sub-keys K, J for opening the message components the consumer 202 is permitted to access. The message is encrypted by using the session key that the consumer 202 generated and sent in message 10.

12. The consumer 202 sends a retrieving-request message to the storage server 206 in order to obtain the cipher-text of the data message. The request contains the hash digests that the consumer 202 received from the anonymisation server 204 in message 1 1 and a session secret key with associated lifetime.

13. The storage server 206, receiving the retrieving-request message from the consumer 202, performs a look-up operation over H(C) J and, if matches are found, the storage server 206 a retrieving-response message to the consumer 202 with the cipher-text. The message is encrypted using the secret session key that the consumer 202 sent in message 12. At this point the protocol execution is completed.

Figure 4 illustrates an exemplary data message 402 having multiple data fields in an embodiment of the present invention. In one embodiment, the message is provided for a user, operator or other entity of the provider 200 to define fields of the data message and which entities (Ai through A n in Figure 2b, which may be providers, consumers or both) should be permitted access to which fields. Accordingly, fields are identified (such as sensitive or protected data fields in the message) and consumers authorised to access those fields are defined. Notably, the data message 402 of Figure 4 could alternatively be a template, schema, model or data structure for a data message such that data fields are identified in such a structure. Each data field identified for anonymisation and protection against access except by authorised consumers are associated with a cryptographic key protecting the field. Figure 4 indicates which fields are to be anonymised (i.e. access precluded) for which consumers. Thus, in Figure 4, the“IP src” field is to be anonymised only for consumer A 2 and is protected by encryption using key K 3 . The field“Port src” is to be anonymised only for consumer A 4 and is protected by encryption using key K 4 . The rightmost two bytes of the field“IP dst” are to be anonymised for all consumers (“ALL”) and are protected by encrypted using key Ki. The “Port dst” field is to be anonymised for consumers Ai, A 3 and A 5 and is protected by encryption using key K 2 . The“AppProto” field is anonymised for all consumers and is protected by encryption with key Ki . Thus, it is possible to specify which parts of a data message are to be anonymised, what to anonymise and for who. The encryption of data fields that may be nested can use a multi layer encryption technique by in applying encryption several times to a data field, first at one original layer, then upon another layer and so on, defining a hierarchy, using different keys for different components and layers.

Figure 5 illustrates an exemplary data sharing agreement (DSA) for consumers embodiments of the present invention. Keys for data fields can be generated using a Key Derivation Function (KDF) algorithm starting from a primary master key (e.g. sK master ) to define the DSA. For example, a policy rule can be defined in which the last two bytes of the destination IP address (IP dst) and the application protocol (AppProto) are hidden for all consumers. This operation instantiates the first sub-key (Ki) and an entry is added in a DSA which includes a key table 502. In the key table 502, all consumers (in this example A I -A 6 ) are marked with an‘X’ meaning that Ki will not be issued to them. Further, the destination port field (Port dst) is anonymised only for consumers Ai, A 3 , A 5 and a new key, K 2 , is instantiated and an entry is added in the key table 502, creating a second layer, where a‘V’ indicates consumers for which the key K 2 will be made available (i.e. only consumers A 2 , A 4 and A 6 will be permitted access to K 2 and, thus, the“Port dst” field). Once the DSA is finalised, data messages are anonymised as illustrated by way of example at the bottom of Figure 5. Figures 6, 7 and 8 illustrate exemplary anonymised data messages for consumers in an exemplary embodiment of the present invention. Figure 6 illustrates an exemplary data message for a consumer A 6 according to the DSA of Figure 5. Thus, the DSA defines A 6 as having access to keys K 2 , K 3 and K 4 so permitting access to data fields“Port dst”,“IP src” and“Port src”. Figure 7 illustrates an exemplary data message for consumers Ai, A 3 and A 5 according to the DSA of Figure 5. Thus, the DSA defines Ai, A 3 and A 5 as having access to keys K 3 and K 4 so permitting access to data fields“IP src” and“Port src”.

Figure 8 illustrates an exemplary data message for a consumer A 2 according to the DSA of Figure 5. Thus, the DSA defines A 2 as having access to keys K 2 and K 4 so permitting access to data fields“Port src” and“Port dst”.

Notably, in a multi-layered encryption scheme, multiple keys may be required to access a data field, such as nested fields with each level of nesting being encrypted by using different keys. In such arrangements, while a consumer may have access to a key for a nested field, if it does not also have access to a key for a nesting field then it may not be possible to decrypt the nested field.

Figure 9 is a flowchart of a method of accessing a data message in accordance with embodiments of the present invention. An anti-collusion mechanism is preferred because consumers may cooperate to access more data fields than as a collective. Such a

mechanism is summarised as:

• A consumer 202 enters an anonymised message as a cipher-text along with

respective keys (step 1202);

• Software executed by the consumer 202 validates the consumer 202 by computing a special token, referred as‘validation token’, as the hash value obtained by the concatenation of the consumer’s identifier, a registered MAC address, a register IP subnet and the sub keys entitled to that consumer 202 (step 1204);

• The software sends the computed validation token to the anonymisation server 204 as a‘challenge-response’ request. If the anonymisation server 204 finds a match with its stored validation token, then the consumer 202 is permitted to run the decryption process (step 1206);

• Once the anonymised data message is decrypted, then opened, it will be available only within the software executed by the consumer 202 meaning that it will not be possible to paste and copy it, neither to print it or forward it via e-mail. Insofar as embodiments of the invention described are implementable, at least in part, using a software-controlled programmable processing device, such as a microprocessor, digital signal processor or other processing device, data processing apparatus or system, it will be appreciated that a computer program for configuring a programmable device, apparatus or system to implement the foregoing described methods is envisaged as an aspect of the present invention. The computer program may be embodied as source code or undergo compilation for implementation on a processing device, apparatus or system or may be embodied as object code, for example.

Suitably, the computer program is stored on a carrier medium in machine or device readable form, for example in solid-state memory, magnetic memory such as disk or tape, optically or magneto-optically readable memory such as compact disk or digital versatile disk etc., and the processing device utilises the program or a part thereof to configure it for operation. The computer program may be supplied from a remote source embodied in a communications medium such as an electronic signal, radio frequency carrier wave or optical carrier wave. Such carrier media are also envisaged as aspects of the present invention. It will be understood by those skilled in the art that, although the present invention has been described in relation to the above described example embodiments, the invention is not limited thereto and that there are many possible variations and modifications which fall within the scope of the invention. The scope of the present invention includes any novel features or combination of features disclosed herein. The applicant hereby gives notice that new claims may be formulated to such features or combination of features during prosecution of this application or of any such further applications derived therefrom. In particular, with reference to the appended claims, features from dependent claims may be combined with those of the independent claims and features from respective independent claims may be combined in any appropriate manner and not merely in the specific combinations enumerated in the claims.