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IBM Seeks Patent On Digital Witch Hunts

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the everyone-sees-a-unique-version-of-this-story dept.

IBM 136

theodp writes "Should Mark Zuckerberg want to identify a snitching Facebook employee, Elon Musk wish to set a trap for loose-lipped Tesla employees, or Steve Jobs want to 'play Asteroid,' they'll be happy to know that a new IBM 'invention' makes it easier than ever to be paranoid. In a newly-disclosed patent application for Embedding a Unique Serial Number into the Content of an Email for Tracking Information Dispersion (phew!), Big Blue describes how it's automated the creation of Canary Traps with patent-pending software that makes ever-so-slight changes to e-mail wording to allow you to spy on the unsuspecting recipients of your e-mail."

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136 comments

That's a neat trick! (4, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814751)

I'm pretty sure witches are analog.

Re:That's a neat trick! (1)

tetrahedrassface (675645) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814801)

I thought they being phased out?

Re:That's a neat trick! (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815805)

I thought they being phased out?

Odd. I could have sworn I just heard a toad.

Re:That's a neat trick! (4, Insightful)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814965)

Everyone knows witches are made of wood.

Re:That's a neat trick! (2, Funny)

Airborne-ng (1391105) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815391)

Everyone knows witches are made of wood.

"What also floats in water?" "Bread!" "Apples!" "Very small rocks!" "Cider!" "Great gravy!" "Cherries!" "Mud!" "Churches...churches!" "Lead...lead!"

IBM turned me into a newt . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816961)

. . . Apologies to IBM, joke follows, no offense intended . . .

" . . . a newt . . . ?"

". . . I got better."

"IBM is like a stream of bat's piss."

"It shines out like a shaft of gold when all around is dark."

"IBM is like a dose of clap."

"Before it arrives is pleasure, but after is a pain in the dong."

"It was one of Wilde's. He's the snitch."

Joke stolen from: http://www.phespirit.info/montypython/oscar_wilde.htm [phespirit.info]

Re:That's a neat trick! (3, Insightful)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815711)

That's what the digital witches want you to believe.

What an advance! (4, Insightful)

WindowlessView (703773) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814817)

Anyone get the feeling that lately technology is increasingly about chasing our technological tails rather than actually doing much of anything?

Re:What an advance! (1)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814995)

This is great. The next time you send an "infelicitously worded" email, you can just blame it on IBM.

In fact, let's not use the word "flame" anymore, when "IBM" will do.

Re:What an advance! (3, Insightful)

conlaw (983784) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815117)

The next time you send an "infelicitously worded" email, you can just blame it on IBM.

Speaking of "infelicitously worded," did you notice that the all of the changed examples (i.e., the second through fourth) start to sound like an instruction manual that has been poorly translated into English?

Re:What an advance! (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815643)

That's why I run prospective leaks through a grammar checker before releasing them into the wild.

Re:What an advance! (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815001)

"Anyone get the feeling that lately technology is increasingly about chasing our technological tails rather than actually doing much of anything?"

I, for one, welcome our new tail-chasing overlords.

Re:What an advance! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815005)

Arf! Roof roof! Ruf!

Re:What an advance! (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815603)

I, for one, welcome our new tail-chasing overlords.

In Soviet Russia, of course, tail chased you!

Re:What an advance! (1)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816593)

cat /dev/random | head | tail

Re:What an advance! (3, Interesting)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815039)

To be honest I assumed this sort of thing was already being done. It's just fingerprinting, using whatever medium is being used.

Re:What an advance! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815803)

Yes, especially with IBM, I wish I'd been keeping a log, but it sure seems to me that IBM is doing a LOT of privacy invading work lately.

One of my concerns is their commercials for all this medical records propaganda, I don't really want a machine to know when I read an email or what my medical conditions are.

Security through obscurity. Again. (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814841)

Security through obscurity doesn't work. I don't know how many stupid asinine ideas like this I'll have to see before I quit this career, but I suspect the number will be higher than I care to contemplate. This is ridiculously easy to subvert -- just run it through the thesaurus algorithm a few more times. Viola, new unique copies, that don't match what they have on record.

Next on the docket -- "Why you can read your coworkers e-mail but not the NSA's. Explorations in the bleedingly obvious."

Obscurity isn't worthless (4, Insightful)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815351)

just run it through the thesaurus algorithm a few more times

But do leakers do that? Always?

People get caught when their guard is down. People fuck up. People think, "nobody's out to get me."

Sometimes they're wrong. Every single day, people die by that principle. They won't get mugged. They can drive home drunk and probably not crash. They can forgo the condom this time. It's true they're not guaranteed to lose. But sometimes they still do.

You're right that it's not a general solution that you can count on, to find your opponent. But at the same time, you know plenty of damn fools will get caught by it.

It's not security through obscurity; it's advantage through security.

Condom? (2, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815395)

What are those for?

Re:Condom? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815441)

If it weren't for accidents, many of us wouldn't be here.

Re:Condom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815877)

I use it to to make sure you don't get a new little brother

Re:Condom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815905)

"Latex Condom...boy, I'd sure like to live in one of those!"

Re:Obscurity isn't worthless (1, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815435)

It's not security through obscurity; it's advantage through security.

Pardon me for being a purist. But anything this easily thwarted also has no legal value, and my understanding here is that it's a punitive measure against the "leaker". If the document got leaked in the first place, chances are good the "leaker" in question can form an affirmative defense that a third party acquired the copy. Worse, if the algorithm is limited to a finite set of permutations, and anything that sticks to words and phrases is a very finite space (cryptographically speaking), the argument could be made that the document was leaked through a different source, run through the algorithm, and coincidentally matched the "signature" of the leaker's copy.

It's completely bogus. If they want to keep data private, then use real cryptography, and validated software/hardware combinations that make the cost of extracting the data in a usable format more expensive than the data it's protecting. The military does it, as to certain businesses, and intelligence agencies around the world. The technology is there, it works, and it's real security.

Re:Obscurity isn't worthless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815609)

Pardon me for being a purist. But anything this easily thwarted also has no legal value, and my understanding here is that it's a punitive measure against the "leaker".

So what if there's no legal value? Someone leaked something you didn't want leaked? Move his ass downstairs to Storage B and take his red stapler away.

Re:Obscurity isn't worthless (2, Insightful)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815635)

the argument could be made that the document was leaked through a different source, run through the algorithm, and coincidentally matched the "signature" of the leaker's copy.

It's not enough to show that there's another possible explanation, you have to show that your story is just as reasonable as the DA's. Your lawyer has to raise reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury to get them to vote not guilty. And, do you really think the jury's going to find your claim reasonable? I sure don't!

Re:Obscurity isn't worthless (2, Funny)

pyro_peter_911 (447333) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816305)

People think, "nobody's out to get me."

You must be new here.

Peter

Re:Security through obscurity. Again. (5, Insightful)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815409)

In your rush to bash people for not having an infallible solution, you're making two awfully big assumptions:

1. That they're intending this to have any effect whatsoever on people actively trying to disguise the source of the leak; and,
2. That a solution isn't worthwhile if it doesn't survive whatever geek-haxxor workarounds you can come up with.

This is exceptionally poor security for classified information. That's not its intent. It's poor security against people actively disguising themselves by "run[ning] it through the thesaurus algorithm a few more times." So be it.

It's still going to catch that guy who wants to show how in the know he is and forwards it to his buddies who post it on a website, and I'm sure there are far higher incidences of that than industrial espionage or whatever it is you're maligning them for not tackling.

I wouldn't personally implement a system like this, but the fact that it doesn't cover all potential circumstances doesn't mean it's worthless. I don't know why Slashdotters always have such a hard time grasping that.

Re:Security through obscurity. Again. (1)

mouseblue (1602125) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815487)

I think people like myself are surprised how this is patent-worthy.
Not necessarily trying to bash it.
If the software handles it really well, and adds redundant error-correction to survive multiple splicing and editing jobs, then I would be amazed.
But if it's easily duplicated by "home-made" (single-person, low budget) methods, why shouldn't we scratch our heads in wonder when they try to patent something simple?

Re:Security through obscurity. Again. (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815567)

I wouldn't personally implement a system like this, but the fact that it doesn't cover all potential circumstances doesn't mean it's worthless. I don't know why Slashdotters always have such a hard time grasping that.

Because we're a bunch of purists who spend our time trying to find novel new solutions to esoteric problems the average person doesn't know or care about. We do have an easy time grasping it, but because of our own personal and professional standards, extensive experience, and training in information technology, we want the best. "Sorta works" just isn't in the geek vocabulary. And, I'd argue, that's how it should be.

Re:Security through obscurity. Again. (3, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815867)

Viola, new unique copies, that don't match what they have on record.

When I leak your post to the world, I'll be sure to change that to "Cello, new unique copies..."

Re:Security through obscurity. Again. (1)

wordsnyc (956034) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816533)

C'mon, mod this up. Well done.

Re:Security through obscurity. Again. (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816209)

This is a time honored counter intelligence technique. It does work in my experience, not every time maybe (I've only been involved, or aware of it, once with this), but often enough to be useful. Its even more effective if you have a small list of possible moles.

Re:Security through obscurity. Again. (1)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816689)

Security through darkness doesn't work. I don't know how many stupid donkeyish ideas like this I'll have to see before I terminate this career, but I suspect the number will be higher than I care to meditate. This is ridiculously easy to pervert -- just run it through the thesaurus algorithm a few more times. Viola, new unique copies, that don't game what they have on music album.

Next on the small boat enclosure -- "Why you can read your coworkers e-mail but not the NSA's. Explorations in the hemorrhagingly obvious."

I think you're mistaken. Can you see any difference with your original post? I knew it.

Just get a Blackberry (0, Offtopic)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814853)

n a newly-disclosed patent application for Embedding a Unique Serial Number into the Content of an Email for Tracking Information Dispersion (phew!)

Get a Blackberry or a wireless broadband card for your netbook. And you can defeat the Great Blue email content tracker, which should keep you and your pathetic band safe from the Death Star, at least temporarily.

Not new (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28814863)

My girlfriend works in the bid and proposal department at Oshkosh Corps. They regularly deal with top secret government contracts for armored vehicles. Each persons copy of whatever paperwork has different sets of typos, so if there are any leaks, they know exactly who it came from.

And yes, they have caught corporate spies with this before.

Re:Not new (3, Insightful)

kpainter (901021) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815009)

Each persons copy of whatever paperwork has different sets of typos, so if there are any leaks, they know exactly who it came from.

For those that don't know, for each new 'typo', they add a few more zeros in the contract dollar amount. That is also why a government contract for armored vehicles would be Top Secret.

Re:Not new (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815353)

So if you're a spy, scan it and then spellcheck?

Re:Not new (2, Informative)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815363)

What if the 'corporate spy' is the mail server admin? Plucking crap out of the bcc_always queue or so on and so forth.

Having had a TS security clearance for a whole bunch of years myself, I frequently handled pass by hand (codeword) eyes only stuff. This entire 'unique copy to each person' thing only happens when someone is 'already' suspected of working for the other side, or in the movies.

Once you have a TS clearance you are trusted until there are signs present that indicate a review thereof might be necessary - at least this is how it worked in my part of the world anyway. The security branches responsible for investigating leaks were never quick to react - after all, it is a big old chess game, those leaks might also be put to good use before they hit the jail cell.

Re:Not new (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815473)

Once you have a TS clearance you are trusted until there are signs present that indicate a review thereof might be necessary - at least this is how it worked in my part of the world anyway.

Or at least, that's what they wanted you to think.

But anyway, is it accurate to call it a witch hunt when the "witches" are real? I thought the whole point was that there were no actual witches.

Re:Not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815883)

Oshkosh corps? Lot's of leaked plans for biballs, b'gosh!

Re:Not new (2, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816631)

So? You just copy and paste it into Word and fix all the typos.

Then ,whoever has the "typo free" version gets blamed.

What a dumb way to do things.

Re:Not new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28816881)

Holy fuck. Where can I get a pair of flat black, nano-clean, Kevlar-doped Oshkosh overalls? These will go great with my carbon fiber banjo!

Digital Witch Hunt (1)

meketrefi (1590185) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814869)

I got this feeling, since I first read the Zombie Survival Guide, that I should have learned how to produce homemade shotguns instead of learning how to type. When the Big Brother start keeping track of my daily trips to the bathroom, any skill below that won't cut it.

Re:Digital Witch Hunt (0, Flamebait)

ResidntGeek (772730) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815105)

It's not too late, you're just lazy. If you really want to know how to make shotguns, go get a book on metalworking and start pricing out machining equipment.

Oh, what's that? You'd rather post on slashdot and pretend you're motivated enough to do something like that?

Re:Digital Witch Hunt (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815231)

Planning for a descent into totalitarian dystopia is like making money on a stock bubble.

A stock bubble will, sooner or later, go up in a giant pile of fake-money smoke(taking a whole lot of people's real money with it); but, until it does so, it offers the best returns in town. If you drop out too early, your returns will be secure; but pitiful. If you drop out too late, you'll get soaked.

In your case, if you drop out early, you'll be the penniless guy living in a shack and trying to make guns out of discarded tin cans. If you drop out too late, you'll have a bunch of shiny CNC gear that you don't know how to use show up about the same time Big Brother's jackbooted minions do.

The trick, of course, is finding the right time...

paraphrase (1)

erbbysam (964606) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814877)

I was going to say that I am going to patent paraphrasing as a technique for circumventing this technology, but then I remembered that would a violation of the DMCA...

Re:paraphrase (1)

Lemmeoutada Collecti (588075) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816247)

Actually, you might be on to something... under US Copyright law (I know, I know, bad bad bad) a creative work is immediately copyrighted to the author, whether they register or not. So the first time someone sends a love poem (a creative work) to their girlfriend (another non-sequiter, I turned in my card a long time ago) and this system modifies and send it, wouldn't that be creating and distributing an unauthorized derivative work?

No expectation of workplace privacy (2, Insightful)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814879)

You should assume, while in the office, that there is a camera on you and that any content you produce on an employer provided computer will be available for inspection. That's just a simple reality these days. I keep personal information I don't want to share on my own personal computer at home.

Re:No expectation of workplace privacy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815189)

Once upon a time I had a boss who enlisted my help to install the camera system with which she could spy on me (although that wasn't its main purpose, supposedly).

Easily defeated, here's how: (1)

mouseblue (1602125) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814883)

Step 1) Hire someone to read the message into recorder.
http://www.examiner.com/x-6665-Liberal-Examiner~y2009m7d24-Miss-Teen-South-Carolinas-title-of-dumbest-person-alive-threatened-by-California-woman [examiner.com]

Step 2) Convert voice messages to text using "SpinVox".
http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/07/23/228208 [slashdot.org]

Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28814931)

The whole point of the technology is to encode the serial number by making slight changes to the wording of the message. Reading those words into another medium will still preserve the damning number.

Re:Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28814987)

With 2 layers of error-prone translation, there's bound to be many random substitutions.

Re:Wrong (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815187)

With 2 layers of error-prone translation, there's bound to be many random substitutions.

But they don't necessarily hit the particular words which encode the information. Even if they do corrupt some of 'em the info is inserted redundantly and error correcting codes are straightforward and applicable.

Re:Wrong (2, Interesting)

mouseblue (1602125) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815061)

Let me clarify: The ideal workaround is to get a very close translation (small error rate) and reverse the process so that the errors build up.

I took your quote on Babel Fish and ran it back to English to get this:

"All point of technology is to encode consecutive numbering by doing the little modification to wording of message. Reading those words to another medium still maintains the hand harsh number."

It's a terrible translation example but if you used a professional translator, you'd still have transformations from syntax and sentence structure from each language.

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28814891)

Digital watches are so 1970s.

Re:WTF? (1)

mouseblue (1602125) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815519)

All the cool kids wear sundials on their arms.

finally (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28814907)

I thought that this sort of thing was a fairly standard thing to do if you really cared about the document. (this sort of thing was describe in The Hunt for Red October, the concept isn't new, automating it _may_ be)

I hope this sort of thing becomes common.

it will let people track down who distributes things _without_ any need for DRM and that sort of nonsense. if you really can show that a document (mp3, video, etc) came from user X you should have a fairly straightforward case against them, and if you know that this sort of thing can be done you are not going to send out copies of things to everyone.

Re:finally (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815255)

Luckily, anonymous publication and distribution has never been turned to noble purposes [wikipedia.org] , and hunting down distributors is always about going after wicked pirates.

I don't consider junior's desire to get shit-tastic mall punk from Kazaa to be a human rights issue; but I am hard pressed to think of any (even slightly efficacious) anti-piracy technology that wouldn't have applications in the burgeoning field of tyranny.

Double plus good (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28814957)

I guess the subtleties of word choice are becoming an old-fashioned concern.

Two obvious comments (3, Insightful)

Gnavpot (708731) | more than 4 years ago | (#28814977)

1. How can this be patent worthy? Individual changes to documents to make them traceable have been performed for years - even in anonymous questionnaires...

2. Patented. Good. Perhaps that will prevent others from using this method. If we are really lucky, IBM won't use it either.

Re:Two obvious comments (1)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815165)

How can this be patent worthy? Individual changes to documents to make them traceable have been performed for years - even in anonymous questionnaires...

I wondered exactly the same thing. It's even a part of the plot-line in an early Tom Clancy book to determine who was leaking classified documents.

Re:Two obvious comments (2, Interesting)

mouseblue (1602125) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815193)

I agree, it doesn't seem very patent worthy.
It's Digital Watermarking [wikipedia.org] with a software thesaurus/dictionary.

The movie industry used digital watermarks for VHS trailer tapes. http://www.afterdawn.com/news/archive/4616.cfm [afterdawn.com]

Trent Reznor used an alternate strategy for one of his short films (from 1992?):

"...a few people who received the movie as a special gift. Each version given away was missing a different section of video, thus enabling Reznor to keep track of those who betrayed him."

http://www.toplessrobot.com/2008/08/the_10_most_amazing_unreleased_things_ever_made.php [toplessrobot.com]

Re:Two obvious comments (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816863)

So if two of them worked together, they'd get the complete movie, and there would be no way to know who released it (assuming they are careful at cutting, so it's not possible to identify the edited section).

Or they even remove a third scene and some unrelated person gets the blame.

Re:Two obvious comments (1)

Leto-II (1509) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815195)

If I understand it correctly, making changes to documents for tracking purposes isn't the patented part. The method of automating the whole process is what is patented.

Re:Two obvious comments (2, Funny)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815497)

Wow! Automation. Word processing. I had never imagined the computers were capable of such a thing.

Next you'll be telling me that they can automatically spot spelling errors, and wrap text at an 80-character margin.

Re:Two obvious comments (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815265)

I assume that the patent is for a means(well, probably an "apparatus and method") of making the individual changes programmatically and without making complete hash of the text.

Still seems dangerously close to "obvious" territory, to anyone skilled in the art of babelfish and back again; but doesn't have nearly as much prior art that way.

Design flaw. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815031)

Interpret it in your own words. Security broken.

IBM Seeks Patent On Digital Witch Hunts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815065)

"If Mark Zuckerberg should want to identify a snitching Facebook employee, Elon Musk wish to set a trap for loose-lipped Tesla employees, or Steve Jobs want to 'play Galaga,' they will be happy to know that a new IBM invention makes it easier than ever to be paranoid. In a newly-disclosed patent application for "Embedding a Unique Serial Number into the Content of an Email for Tracking Information Dispersion" (sheesh!), IBM describes how it has automated the creation of Canary Traps with patent-pending software that makes small changes to e-mail wording to allow you to spy on the unsuspecting recipients of your e-mail."

easily defeated: leak to slashdot (1)

LinuxRulz (678500) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815071)

Every slashdot reader knows news posted on slashdot are distorted prior to posting.

email? (1)

forgoil (104808) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815083)

Do people still use that? Either way, why not try to improve your hiring processes instead of treating all your employees like criminals. If you do treat me like a criminal and give me the punishment, I do feel obliged to get to do the crime as well...

Re:email? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815593)

My paranoid library is always trying to entrap me by logging which books I have out. I am so sick of being treated like a criminal. When will this witch hunt end?

Note to all! (1)

yo303 (558777) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815091)

Don't do non-work from work, if you work at IBM.

Crap! I wrote this from work!

Their Hovercraft is full of Crap (2, Funny)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815093)

This won't go anywhere.

Or if they do and try to implement this in their system, it will last until the first email is translated into a language OTHER than US English.

"Over the last 20 years, we have remained dedicated to a single mission..."

"Over the last 20 years, we have remained confined to a single mental institution..."

"Over the last 20 years, we have remained obligated to one church..."

"Over the last 20 years, we have remained engaged in espionage..."

Re:Their Hovercraft is full of Crap (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815575)

"Over the last 20 years, we have remained dedicated to a single mission..."

Federation.

"Over the last 20 years, we have remained confined to a single mental institution..."

Borg

"Over the last 20 years, we have remained obligated to one church..."

Bajoran

"Over the last 20 years, we have remained engaged in espionage..."

Romulan

Lots of prior art. (2, Interesting)

jcr (53032) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815095)

Spy agencies have been doing this kind of thing for decades. Slightly altering the wording in documents so that the individual recipient is traceable. They used to have a major problem with classified material being leaked to the press by congressional staffers.

-jcr

Re:Lots of prior art. (2, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815235)

Spy agencies have been doing this kind of thing for decades. ... They used to have a major problem with classified material being leaked to the press by congressional staffers.

Now you know why "Deep Throat" was so cagey, vague, and just pointed Woodward and Bernstein to the right lines of investigation and insisted they hunt down other sources and confirmation, rather than letting them use him as an unnamed direct source.

How long . . . (3, Insightful)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815205)

How long will it be until Apple patents goading a supplier into assassinating employees responsible for losing sensitive product prototypes?

How does this make it easier? (1)

One Louder (595430) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815217)

Since there's now a patent, these other companies would have to pay for a license in order to use this method to spy on their employees.

Re:How does this make it easier? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815439)

Yeah, practically speaking, the patent would give IBM a monopoly on software sold on the open market that implements this method.

For Dr. Evil bonus points, IBM could lobby congress to force the US gov't and its defense supply chain vendors to use this. Then IBM could charge one MILLLLION dollars.

Patent is invalid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815377)

I claim prior art. I have been doing this for decades. Stupid patent office. Greedy IBM.

Anyone else... (1)

user-hostile (1177051) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815397)

read the subject as 'Digital Watch' hunts?

Re:Anyone else... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815687)

The first time, yes. And I was ~so~ hoping it would reduce the spam coming in.

Re:Anyone else... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816143)

digital watches are so 1980's

My watch is analog... it is so much easier to visualize the passage of time that way.

Trust me. 120 years from now you won't care if you have an analog or digital watch. Time will pass.

Re:Anyone else... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816923)

Of course, in 120 years you'll get implants which make you always simply know what time it is, without having to look at some device. Looking at some devices on your hands would only distract you when operating your flying cars. :-)

It's still SMTP rigght? (1)

jbezorg (1263978) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815401)

telnet somedomain.com 25

Type:
HELO yourdomainname.com
MAIL FROM: <you@hostname.com>
RCPT TO: <to@hostname.com>
DATA
lol

lololol
.

prior art (?) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28815415)

Something like this was mentioned in Patriot Games by Tom Clancy. It was referred to as "the smoking typewriter".

Don't to Done (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815443)

How many changes can it make before it either changes the meaning of the e-mail, or makes you look like a moron for sending such an malformed message?

Do we now have to go back to straight text e-mails just to ensure that nobody is hiding tracking bugs in it?

Why is this new ? (2, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815469)

This has been used for years - for example, back in Maggie Thatcher's day they caught a mole this way. What, exactly, is new about this ? That it's in software ?

Re:Why is this new ? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28816403)

What's new is that it's done automatically, which presumably means it can be done on a regular basis instead of only when an investigation is already in process

Re:Why is this new ? (2, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816931)

Well, they'll stop blindly using it the first time it creates a slight, but disastrous modification of the meaning.

WinDiff (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815537)

1: Find trusted friend working on same document.
2: WinDiff Document A against Document B.
3: Create Document C containing none of the mismatches in Document A+B.
4: PROFIT!

Overall this reminds me of the SDMI system several years ago that claimed that it could hide unique identifying data in an audio recording that couldn't be detected or removed and the developers of it issued a challenge to break the system. When it was quickly broken by Edward W. Felten the music industry responded not with a reward, but with lawsuit attempting to prohibit him from speaking about his methods. Talk about sore losers!

Self defeating....literaly (1)

Em Ellel (523581) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815619)

Ok, is this to complete with Amazon's double rot-13 encryption patent?

Let me get this straight, they invented a system that identifies people by slightly altering wording of messages.... automatically.... sooooooo, what exactly is stopping people from using the same exact system to automatically modify the message to make it un-traceable again????? Thunderbird plug-in in 3 ... 2...1...

-Em

enthusiastic =/= commited (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815725)

The system uses stupid thesaurus switches. Not all synonyms mean exactly the same thing. Some of theses emails are going to sound so dumb that the employees will know something is up.

First... they came for the Napsters..... (1)

TechnoChatter69420 (1605189) | more than 4 years ago | (#28815935)

and I said nothing... because I used Usenet :P :P

who is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28816003)

joe doe?

All my email comes in ASCII (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816137)

It is easy to cut-n-paste, snip, spell check... not the same email at all.

And I mean that in a very real, and legally binding sense.

Simple defeat to this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28816635)

There is a simple way to defeat this.

Reply all.

Thanks for the email. (Making sure you quote the email)

The more this comes into play the more forwarding to all will be occurring.

Re:Simple defeat to this. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816941)

That of course assumes that you know who the other recipients are. man bcc.

Tom Clancy == prior art (2, Interesting)

Slartibartfast (3395) | more than 4 years ago | (#28816687)

Tom Clancy beat this drum -- almost tiresomely -- in several of his books back in the 90's. Our Fearless Protagonist, Jack Ryan, even came up with the algorithm, the name of which currently escapes me. Granted, the algorithm is never actually explained, but its output is identical to what this patent proposes, so methinks this probably isn't worthy of a patent.

Just my two cents, of course.

-Slarty

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