Ambient Trust


Ambient Trust in a Nut Shell

Ambient Trust is a prototype implementation of an ambient orb manufactured by AmbientDevices developed with the goal of creating an interface that simplifies the interaction between users and a preexisting security tool, Net Trust, particularly for seniors and non-technical individuals.

Key features and goals

  • Links seamlessly with the NetTrust interface.
  • Usable on any platform that Mozilla Firefox can run on.
  • Allows users to easily change ratings of websites by pressing the orb down.
  • Designed with accessibility in mind allowing users, especially colorblind users, to choose what colors they think should represent the varying levels of trust.
  • Better conforms to users’ abstract mental models of trust by using varying shades of colors which are less concrete than number ratings to quantify trust.
  • Integrates third party trust ratings (powered by NetTrust).
    • Third party ratings can be from trusted organizations such as the Better Business Bureau or the FDIC.
  • Can create a social context of trust if used in a group setting.
    • “Hey, your orb is always flashing red. Are you sure the sites you are visiting are safe?”
  • Helps users utilize NetTrust to make socially grounded, informed trust decisions and protect them from Phishing attacks.
  • Facilitates trust by being open source under the Apache license along with Net Trust.
    • Anyone is welcome to contribute or examine the code.

Technical Description

Ambient Trust currently, as previously mentioned, uses an AmbientDevices ambient orb to communicate a website’s trust rating according to the user’s NetTrust trust rating. The orb in its current state connects to the user’s computer by the serial port or USB (with a converter). Ambient Trust will be incorporated as a plug in to Net Trust, which utilizes both JavaScript on NetTrust side and C for Serial I/O and button logic. The basic way it works is:

  • A daemonized process, developed in C, (AmbientTrust.c) is run in the background that continuously monitors any input from the serial port, such as orb pressure, and waits for input from Net Trust.
  • Net Trust communicates third party and social networked ratings through the Ambient Trust plugin that is interfaced with Net Trust, which is developed in JavaScript (AmbientTrust.js).

Current Development Stage and Source Code

Ambient Trust is currently in a mid-fidelity prototype stage of development. Code is very buggy and not yet designed for efficiency or security. The current code should work on any system that can run Firefox. Windows users currently must use the cygwin dll file to emulate a posix environment.

If you wish, you may browse the messy prototype source code (along with some required NetTrust source code, licensed under Apache License v2) here. The source is not incorporated with a CVS or SVN tree yet, so it is not guaranteed to be current and is not yet well organized. If you wish to contribute to this project please email me at zschallz /a-t/ indiana /d-o-t/ edu.

Current status as of April 4, 2008:
Finishing pressure modified ratings on the Net Trust side of code.

Student researchers: Zachary Schall-Zimmerman