3M Privacy Filter Software Protects against #VisualHacking

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of 3M for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

If you work in a large open environment and work with sensitive data, maybe spreadsheets with financials or employee account information or maybe just sensitive details, corporate IP information…etc. You may have a need for a combination Privacy Filter and Privacy Filter Software from 3M.  What these complimentary products are designed to do is stop VisualHacking which is a neat little term for someone looking over your shoulder or even at your screen from a distance to try and read and copy what you have up on your screen. While I didn’t get the 3M™ Privacy Filter itself to review, 3M did provide me with a trial license of the 3M ePrivacy Filter Software which I promptly installed and tested against my Logitech C920 webcamLearn more about 3M™ ePrivacy Filter Software  

Now the 3M™ Privacy Filter screen is designed to make it so your monitor or screen isn’t visible to any angle except directly in front of it, this means side glances and angles that aren’t directly in front of your monitor can’t see what is on the screen.  The 3M ePrivacy Filter Software uses facial recognition to mask the screen if you walk away from your desk and also detects if there is any other face within webcam line of site and will mask your screen to avoid someone looking over your shoulder at the screen. First think I did was start installing the software, which took only moments.install-privacy-shield After installing the software you run through the setup. 3m-setup As part of the setup you detect and select the Webcam that the software will be using to monitor your environment. 3m-webcam Then you register your face, or basically build a profile so that your face is the authentication/unlocking face for this PC.  Make sure you get a clear picture of your face, and I tested it both with and without hats and it was pretty good at just seeing facial features and ignoring the hat itself. face-registration The first think I like to do is look at any software options when software installs, and one option is to increase the resolution of the webcam so that you get better face matching and can detect faces from a further distance.  It claims that more CPU load will be used, and I have an Intel Core-i7 2600K overclocked to 4.4ghz so wasn’t worried about that. webcam-options So I did a quite a few tests with the product, the first was looking away from the screen, and then using my screen capture when I noticed movement.  Sure enough the screen would become pixelated (you can set it to just display image if you don’t want to to pixelize your screen. 3m-block-screen When I walked away from my desk, I had my wife go ahead and try to login to my computer or get past the pixellated screen, and she was presented with a challenge that face did not match, so I leaned over and then saw what happen if someone moved a mouse when it had no face in camera field of vision and got the Noface screen below. no-face It will let you unlock the computer if you know the current users Windows password as an alternate method to unlock the 3M Privacy Filter software as well. Lastly I also was sitting in front of my computer and asked my wife to come look over my shoulder and stand at various distances, and the software would blur and unblur when it detected her face in the backdrop. screenblocked The one thing I will note, is that the blurring action is rather sluggish and probably takes a few seconds slowly blurring the screen after detection, someone who can read quick can actually get a good 3-5 seconds of viewing the screen before the detection and blur kicks in, so I would have liked to see it detect and react to blur a little faster, but it is still pretty good.  The other thing I noticed is if you work in a high traffic area where people would be walking behind your office chair frequently, it could be picking up faces and blurring with regularity, if this occurs you will want to lower the resolution setting which causes it to not be so sensitive at detecting faces further away from you.

I tried to fool the 3M Privacy Filter Software by using both a physical photo of my face and a photo on my iPad held up to the camera, and while in both attempts the green box of software showed it detected a face, I was not able to unlock my screen with a photo physically or on my iPad, however I think the lighting or photo quality is the issue, I do believe it is possible to fool the software with a photo of the registered persons face if in sufficient size/quality and held at the right distance from the camera, so this isn’t 100% foolproof and works ideally if you are at your system and more for blocking others from peering over at you than a more secure facial recognition system that would also need heat signature and other functionality to differentiate from a photo.

Another thing I noticed is the 3M Privacy Filter software disables your ability to access the Task Manager so that someone can’t simply press Control Alt Delete and go to Task Manager and kill the process to bypass, this does have the unintended side effect of blocking your account from ever running task manager even if you uinstall the software and requires you to make a registry setting change to restore your access to task manager.

To re-enable Task Manager

  1. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\ Windows\ Current Version\Policies\System
  2. Find “DisableTaskMgr” and Double click on it. A window will pop up.
  3. Enter value as 0 and press OK.
  4. Task Manager should now be restored right away

Overall the 3M Privacy Filter software did what it is intended to do, it unlocks your computer as long as a recognized and registered face is in front of the screen, and blurs/locks it when it detects noface or an unrecognized face either in front or a 2nd face in the same field of view.  Now again, the 3M Privacy Filter software isn’t a sole solution because if someone is outside the field of view of the webcam they can still see what is on the screen if the registered user is actively working on the desktop or laptop, this is why it needs to be paired with the 3M Privacy Screen for your Laptop or Monitor to make sure the field of vision of being able to read the screen is limited to only being directly in front of the screen and therefore only being directly in the field of view of the webcam.

You can watch this video too:

So right now, go and Download a 30-day free trial of 3M™ ePrivacy Filter Software or just go to 3Mscreens.com/ePrivacyFilter/Trial.  Download the software and enter your activation code (VX7J-3CVJ-AyW2-X4PQ) to start your 30-day trial and let us know how you like it.

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Justin Germino
I have been obsessed with computers, tech, gadgets and games since the early 1980's having grown up on the Commodore 64 and Amiga computers. By day I work in the IT Security Industry and have been in IT for over 20 years. On my spare time I am a Vlogger, Blogger, Streamer, Gadget Reviewer, affiliate marketer, influencer and entertainer. I am also an avid movie fan, TV Show fan, Anime fan, video game fan and fan of trying anything and everything new.
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