Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Anonymous emails no longer anonymous?

Individuals who endeavor to remain anonymous when they send information over the web using different anonymous email and anonymous messaging services use these services to ensure the information they share with others cannot be traced back to them. There are equally good and bad uses for sending anonymous emails. Most people use anonymous email and anonymous messaging for legitimate and legal purpose. However- like any method of communication, whether it be smoke signals, secret decoder rings or a simple anonymous letter sent through the mail; there are always individuals that will use anonymity for nefarious purposes. It is critically important to keep this in perspective, since anonymity is a component of right to freedom of speech.

Researchers from Concordia University in Montreal claim they have devised a method to determine the authorship of anonymous emails. The technique utilizes data mining routines as well as syntax comparison modeling to identity patterns in speech and grammatical syntax to match the content of a message to a message of a "known" sender. In essence- this is a form of digital profiling that looks for patterns in writing (similar to techniques used in criminal forensics) between multiple emails to reveal consistencies (or inconsistencies) that would otherwise be undetectable by just examining a small pool of emails.

The purpose of the study is to combat the rapid increase in cybercrime. Identity theft is a primary consumer complaint of 2010 and is frequently committed by sending malware via anonymous emails.  Law enforcement officials typically use IP addresses to locate the residence where the email originated. However, IP addresses can come from a closed network where one outgoing IP address services several internal sub-addresses (ie: a hotel or internet hot spot). So- the only way to determine the author of an anonymous email is to identify the patterns found in emails written by the subject. This generates a unique or distinctive digital fingerprint.

So- is the end of anonymous messaging or anonymous email? Absolutely not. I would propose this simple solution. There are article writing tools that a lot of content copywriters and SEO professionals use every day to "spin" articles for SEO purposes. The way this works is you write some content (perhaps a blog or article) but then assign variables to the structure and syntax of the content. You provide replacement words and phrase that are randomly replaced each time you "spin" the article. With enough variables (or variants of a given word, phrase or sentence) an endless number or spun content could be generated. A similar process could be employed with the content of emails (kind of like money laundering for content)  the end result would be a randomly generated varriant of the original email. Removing any writing style or personal traits that might reflect the senders writing style. So- nice try... but  these researches just blew a ton of money on a process that is easily circumvented by a little creative thinking. People using anonymous messaging for legal purposes probably wouldn't even care about the profiling measures since they aren't engaging in illegal activities. But if the SPAMMERS and identity thieves are going to continue to use anonymous emails to conduct their illegal activities, they will certainly come up with creative "work-arounds" much more ingenious then the simple "fix" demonstrated above. A final issue to consider is that most cyber-crime activities originate from networks outside the U.S. and the jurisdiction of the U.S. criminal justice system. Therefor, if they actually identify an anonymous sender engaged in criminal activity; contending with jurisdiction and international law would present a significant hurdle, especially in countries such as Russia and their ex-Soviet satellites where a great deal of cyber-crime and criminal internet activity originates.

Therefore, if you are concerned about some furturistic server profiling your emails (anonymous or not) and trying to identify your wrtiing patterns, have no fear- once you run the content of your message though a spining program or similar content re-writer, the essence of the information will remain intact, but any pattern in writing style will be diffused and become generalized and no-longer unique.

Silent Sender is on the forefront of protecting your identity and your right to anonymity and freedom of speech through the use on anonymous messaging.

If you would like to learn more about this story from its original source please click here.

Discover how to send an anonymous email - Go Silent! The Truth Will Set You Free...

No comments:

Post a Comment

How To Send Anonymous Email - Anonymous Messaging