Computer science majors pursue anti-counterfeiting startup Legitima


Two ambitious computer science students from George Mason University, Salem Abdul-Bak, and Krishna Purohit, have developed an innovative technology known as Legitima to ensure that consumers can confidently verify the authenticity of their purchases, significantly reducing the risk of buying counterfeit goods. Their journey began at the Bring Down Counterfeiting Hackathon 2023 and has been supported by experts from the university's Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis Center (CINA).

Legitima employs a unique approach that uses serialized tokens to track the entire journey of a product from its creation to the final purchase. This method allows consumers to easily verify if their purchases are genuine, helping to maintain trust in the products they buy.

During the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative 2024 Symposium in Richmond, Virginia, Abdul-Bak shared insights into the motivation behind developing Legitima, "We wanted to make an approach basically that gives the consumer a lot of information, so it makes it a very secure approach to counterfeiting, but at the same time, it's also easy to use". This dual focus on security and user-friendliness is central to their vision for enhancing consumer confidence.

Unlike other systems that rely on decentralized data sources, Legitima utilizes a centralized third-party agency to ensure data accuracy and security. "We're proposing a third-party cyber defense agency so that the third party is a single source of truth," said Purohit. This centralized approach simplifies the verification process, making it more user-friendly for consumers and allowing the intellectual property holder to retain exclusive ownership of their data. One of the notable features of Legitima is its ability to reveal discrepancies in product information. Purohit highlighted an example of this functionality: "If the database says that this product is a red-colored handbag, but he [the consumer] has a shoe, then the counterfeiter just gave him a random token." This example demonstrates how Legitima can easily identify counterfeit products, enhancing the overall security of the purchasing process.

To ensure that businesses of all sizes can adopt this technology, the students have focused on making Legitima versatile and scalable. They have worked to ensure that the system can be adapted to fit different business models and budgets, allowing even smaller businesses to benefit from this advanced technology to safeguard their products.

Reflecting on the broader impact of their work, Purohit emphasized the primary mission behind Legitima: "It's just an easy way for the consumer to verify that the product they bought is real."  This vision is about more than just technology—it's about creating a safer, more trustworthy marketplace for all.

Abdul-Bak and Purohit remain optimistic about the future of Legitima and its role in the ongoing fight against counterfeit products. Abdul-Bak shared, "Right now, we're coming to the end of our official CINA partnership this spring, but we're looking at options for either continuation or even startup opportunities."