Data-mining technique outs authors of anonymous email • The Register

Engineers and computer scientists say they have devised a novel method for identifying authors of anonymous emails that’s reliable enough to be used in courts of law.

In a series of papers published over the past few years, the researchers from Concordia University in Montreal have described what they say is the first ever data-mining algorithm for identifying the most plausible author of an anonymous email. It works by establishing a “write-print” of each suspected author by quantifying unique patterns in each individual’s email writings. It can be used to unmask authors of emails used in spam, phishing cyberbullying and other types of offenses.

“Our insight is that the write-print of an individual is the combinations of features that occur frequently in his/her written emails,” the researchers wrote in a paper (PDF) first published in the publication Digital Investigation. “The commonly used features are lexical, syntactical, structural and content-specific attributes. By matching the write-print with the malicious email, the true author can be identified.”

Characteristics include word usage, word sequence, common spelling and grammatical mistakes, vocabulary richness, hyphenation and punctuation.

via Data-mining technique outs authors of anonymous email • The Register.

I can’t believe they’d even consider allowing this in court. Anyway, just in case they are, anyone planning on wanting to remain anonymous in anonymous emails should take this information into consideration. Shouldn’t be too difficult to beat…write as if you have an accent, use a thesaurus, be different with punctuation than your usual self, and perhaps capitalization. Hell, write your email, then send it through a translator to another language, pass that to another one, and then translate back to English from there. If you’re lucky, the message you’re trying to say at all will remain intact, and it will sound like a computer wrote it in the first place. Anyway, the point is, it’s easy to beat, but only if you know that it’s there to be beaten in the first place. Now you know.


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