Be prepared to freak out.
Applications recently released by researchers from two universities can give Gmail users a good sense of how valuable their email accounts might be to malicious hackers and law enforcement investigators.
Cloudsweeper, developed at University of Illinois at Chicago, scans emails to find any mention of passwords or password resets.
Based on the black market price for the type of account details found in the email data, Cloudsweeper tells the user how much his or her Gmail account is worth to a hacker. For example, Amazon login information is worth $15 and Instagram details are worth 30 cents.
The app can also redact or encrypt the passwords it finds, possibly faster than deleting old emails. Users would have to return to Cloudsweeper to decrypt them if they are ever needed again.
Immersion, from MIT, doesn’t look at the content of emails. But it does scan less visible data such as what’s in the “to” and “from” fields. Using that information, Immersion maps out a user’s relationship with a hundred of his or her top contacts.
The chart is a glimpse of what, for example, spies at the National Security Agency could learn about someone simply from collecting metadata from Internet technology companies such as Google Inc.
The Web app crashed shortly after launch this week but it’s expected to be up shortly if it’s not already.
Cesar Hidalgo, one of the researchers behind the project, spoke to the Boston Globe about its usefulness for people to evaluate both their relationship circles and the lack of transparency about how their personal data is being used.
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