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Unmasking Anonymous Email Senders

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the i-see-you-over-there dept.

Privacy 204

alphadogg writes "Just because you send an email anonymously doesn't mean people can't figure out who you are anymore. A new technique developed by researchers at Concordia University in Quebec could be used to unmask would-be anonymous emailers by sniffing out patterns in their writing style from use of all lowercase letters to common typos. Their research, published in the journal Digital Investigation, describes techniques that could be used to serve up evidence in court, giving law enforcement more detailed information than a simple IP address can produce."

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Pretty print it first (4, Interesting)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422404)

run it thru pretty print or some other formatter before sending it.

Re:Pretty print it first (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422464)

They seriously think an 80% success rate is good enough to be used in court?

I'm betting the real reason is so they can go to a judge with their pseudo-evidence to get a warrant for more invasive spying.

Re:Pretty print it first (2)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422624)

I can't even see something as good as an 80% match rate on anything less than a full page of text, you'd need a damn huge sample size if you're going to be using typos and capitalization as "fingerprinting".

Also, doesn't this mean that a simple spellchecker and the auto-capitalization function on many smartphones would defeat this technology?

Re:Pretty print it first (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422678)

According to Wikipedia an 80% success rate is good enough for most civil cases, and indictment for criminal cases. These are best off a "preponderance of the evidence," or "more likely than not" standard (>50%). Criminal case decisions are based on a standard of "clear and convincing evidence," but 80% would be more than enough to get them in the door.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_burden_of_proof#Examples

Re:Pretty print it first (3, Informative)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422690)

They seriously think an 80% success rate is good enough to be used in court?

Why not? 19 states and many countries still admit polygraph tests into court, despite the fact that they are wildly inaccurate, and people can be specifically taught to deceive them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polygraph#Validity [wikipedia.org]

Re:Pretty print it first (1)

callmebill (1917294) | more than 3 years ago | (#35423090)

"It's not a lie if _you_ believe it."

Re:Pretty print it first (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422754)

80% success rate is worse than a lot of properly trained text categorization tools. I'm also suspecting from skimming the article that this system is even easier to throw off track than most text categorization tools built on solid algorithms.

Just word yourself a little differently, use the british spelling of a few words instead of your usual american spelling, try to use shorter or longer paragraphs than you would usually use et voilà, you are now a very poor match for those anonymous death threats sent to your boss.

It's a bit like trying to categorize documents written by someone who also wrote the documents you used for training data and who doesn't want you to successfully categorize the documents...

I can imitate your writing style (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422816)

Even worse than false negatives would be false positives. Maybe those death threats to your boss sound just like you, use the same words you use, the same grammar, everything. That's because your jealous coworker pirated himself a copy of this program, fed some writing of yours through it, and then kept editing those death threats until the program claimed they sounded just like you.

Re: 80% (1)

SimonTS (1984074) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422914)

In the UK 80% of the jury is enough to convict you of a crime, so I suspect that over here the courts would probably jump at an 80% success rate.

Personally I don't see how this can be anything other than subjective as there are far too many ways to get round it.

Re:Pretty print it first (1)

theillien (984847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422926)

Hell, I don't even date women that are only an 80% match.

Re:Pretty print it first (1)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 3 years ago | (#35423118)

80% success is better than fingerprint matching OR DNA. So yeah, I think it's likely to stand up in court.

Re:Pretty print it first (2)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422620)

run it thru pretty print or some other formatter before sending it.

If it's looking for writing style, not just punctuation, spacing, caps, etc., then you might also want to do an auto-translate back and forth from your language. But that would potentially provide another way to find you if you used an online translator.

Re:Pretty print it first (4, Informative)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422722)

run it thru pretty print or some other formatter before sending it.

Nah .. run it twice though Google translate

Nah .. ejecutarlo dos veces a través de Google Translate

Nah .. twice run through Google Translate

The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten! (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422818)

The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten!

Re:The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten! (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422900)

The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten!

I just tried that famous phrase via google and got ..

The flesh is weak but the spirit is willing. => Russian => the flesh is weak but the spirit is ready.

I'm sure a native Russian speaker could debate the choice of "ready" over "willing" (Especially if I could paste from translate to here!)

Re:The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten! (3, Informative)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35423136)

I'm a native Russian speaker and this phrase, indeed, can't be mistranslated this way (I just used it as a well known example). However, it's true that attempting to automatically translate ANYTHING non-trivial from English to Russian invariably results in hilarity.
For example, I've tried to translate the next Slashdot article's blurb:

"Google Voice users learned late Monday that the service now has a way of making purely Internet-based phone calls. Making a SIP call with a "sip:" prefix, the Google Voice phone number and @sip.voice.google.com skips the conventional phone network entirely, saving users cellphone minutes. Disruptive Telephony tested it and found that a call worked "great.""

"Disruptive" was translated as "explosive" in the sense of "trinitrotoluene", and "great" was translated as "big". Translating it back resulted in:

"Google Voice users learned late Monday that the service is now a way to make a clean Internet phone calls Make a call with SIP. "Sip:" prefix, Google Voice phone transmits the number and@sip.voice.google.com common telephone network fully, saving minutes of mobile phone users. Explosive Telephone tested it and found that the call worked "big""

You can probably still guess the meaning, but it's not exactly easy.

Re:Pretty print it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422814)

People, by and large, already do. This tech sounds like a very sly way of being able to blame microsoft (hotmail + outlook) for every e-mail ever sent ;)

Re:Pretty print it first (1)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422932)

In the old days, we used to pipe our play-by-email instructions through jive(6) to avoid giving away too much info.

I could see anon email services offering a filter. The fastest way is to convert it to French and back.

Re:Pretty print it first (1)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 3 years ago | (#35423044)

Translate to and from some other language repeatedly until the translations are the same.
That way the writing style will resemble the translation program's more than your own.

An example, using this technique on the above text: http://translationparty.com/#8957181 [translationparty.com]
"By repeating the same part of the translation has been translated into other languages. Style, translation program, this method is beyond ourselves."

For the lulz (4, Insightful)

burnit999 (1845596) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422426)

Sooo... if I want to write an anonymous letter I just switch from my usual grammar natzi mode to my OMFG i c4/Vz p0ns0r your org MANNNN!

Re:For the lulz (1)

eyrieowl (881195) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422752)

Being a grammar 'natzi' apparently being distinct from being a spelling nazi... ;)

Re:For the lulz (2)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422890)

shake shake roll... Natzi!

E E Cummings, that blatant spammer (4, Insightful)

SMoynihan (1647997) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422434)

Turns out most spam is written by e e cummings.

Who'd have thought it?

re:e e cummings, that blatant spammer (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422876)

turns out most spam is written by e e cummings.

who'd have thought it?

There, fixed that for you!

Re:E E Cummings, that blatant spammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422906)

Well, most spam is about drugs for larger erections and more powerful orgasms.

"Could care less" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422436)

Dagnabbit! That means I have to start saying "I could care less" like all the retards on the Internet who can't fathom how that sentence makes no sense whatsoever in order to avoid being the last one on Earth to use it properly and thus be easily identified by my writing "style"! Aaaargh!

Re:"Could care less" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422484)

Your right.

(Hah, track me on that!)

Re:"Could care less" (-1, Troll)

jaymz666 (34050) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422522)

IME, only Americans seem unable to understand the phrase.

Re:"Could care less" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422786)

SMACK! If you could care less, you must care. I could NOT care less about you and your American-bashing. You know why? Because I do not care. Would you like another round with the cluebat now?

Re:"Could care less" (2)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35423058)

Or maybe that person really COULD care less, but their current level of caring is so low it doesn't matter.

Finally, they can find that one guy (5, Funny)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422450)

who always types part of the body of his message in the subject line.

Oh really? Well I wish them (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422640)

the best of luck in their attempt.

Yeah, that guy's an (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422744)

asshole.

What do you mean that someone who types the messag (0)

bongey (974911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422822)

e in the subject line.

Too easy to fake (2)

trollertron3000 (1940942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422466)

Yes but unlike writing this can be easily duplicated. Writing using someone else's style isn't an easy task. Doing it with a keyboard, very easy.

Re:Too easy to fake (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422582)

I sense a new market opportunity for "text laundering".

Re:Too easy to fake (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422644)

A perl script with a few lines of punctuation-removal and whitespace normalization would do wonders.

Re:Too easy to fake (1)

killmenow (184444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422734)

Or run your text through a google translate twice like: NativeLanguage->Foreign->Native. Hey, the translation is 80% accurate!

Re:Too easy to fake (1)

killmenow (184444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422792)

I have my God was only realized later that it was at least two previous posts about the same thing.

...was originally:

My god I posted this and only later realized there were at least two earlier posts suggesting the same thing.

(English->French->German->Afrikaans->Greek->English)

Re:Too easy to fake (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422870)

Now, automate it and blast away!

Re:Too easy to fake (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35423100)

That's awweady been done. But I can't show an exampow, because Swashdot appawentwy specificawy wequested that this site not be twanswitewated.

Very easy to frame someone, too (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422658)

What can be done can be undone. If this gets accepted as evidence in court, why not get a sample of someone's writing and duplicate it in a compromising message?

Behavioral Profiling rediscovered (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422468)

Pretty sure profiling and behavioral analysis has been around for a long time.

Re:Behavioral Profiling rediscovered (3, Funny)

OrangeCowHide (810076) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422562)

But this is on a computer... On the internet. That's like double implicit innovation.

Verily, I am scrod (2)

kmdrtako (1971832) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422470)

wherefore did I ever adopt such a distinctive writing style.

Re:Verily, I am scrod (2)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422726)

Information for /. readers: A scrod is a fish *and* is the model of car with large fins driven by Ratliff in the comic strip Eye Beam by Sam Hurt.

Re:Verily, I am scrod (1)

kmdrtako (1971832) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422796)

whoosh.

A new technique? (1)

SudoGhost (1779150) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422492)

This only really applies when you have something to compare it with. Besides, this technique just forensic document examination, which is older than computers are, how is this news?

Re:A new technique? (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422596)

It's news BECAUSE it is on Slashdot, silly. :p

Interesting, but easily defeated (2)

zindorsky (710179) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422494)

I'm not saying the research is worthless, but their techniques are easily defeated.
It would be simple to write a program that would iteratively "fuzz" your message with typos, lowercase/uppercase toggling, etc. and check the result against their algorithm until the message could no longer be tied to you.
I'm sure someone could do it in 10 lines of Perl, or less.

Re:Interesting, but easily defeated (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422614)

Surely they are already doing this? The spam I'm getting is universally atrociously written, probably in an attempt to escape spam filters, I suppose.

Re:Interesting, but easily defeated (1)

Whalou (721698) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422638)

I'm sure someone could do it in 10 lines of Perl, or less.

Isn't there a law or something like that that states that anything that can be written in 10 lines of Perl can be written in 1 line of Perl?

(Sorry for the amount of 'that's in the previous sentence.)

Re:Interesting, but easily defeated (1)

Slutticus (1237534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422788)

No, I believe the law states "anything that can be written in 100 lines of Perl can be written in 1 line of Python"

Re:Interesting, but easily defeated (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422660)

I'm not saying the research is worthless, but their techniques are easily defeated.

And...?

It would be simple to write a program that would iteratively "fuzz" your message with typos, lowercase/uppercase toggling, etc. and check the result against their algorithm until the message could no longer be tied to you. I'm sure someone could do it in 10 lines of Perl, or less.

Of course it would be easy to defeat. But document analysis techniques have been around for decades... maybe not this specific algorithm, but analyzing typos, vocabulary, etc is a pretty old concept.

Were Sarah Palin's hacked emails "fuzzed" ? Were the wikileaks cables "fuzzed"? Were the Pentagon Papers "fuzzed"? When was the last time you saw a blog, or even a comment post "fuzzed"?

I guess this technique might be pretty useful after all despite the fact that it can be "easily defeated"... because it turns out that most people don't fuzz their documents, even the embarrassing shit they might like to have plausible deniability on later...

Re:Interesting, but easily defeated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35423098)

shore thin I"v gut one ov thse programs Running in my hands soo it is BeTween by brain and the ke byoard.

Simple (5, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422498)

Use Google translate. Translate it into Spanish, then into German, then back into English, then into LEET.

It should be simple to obscure the style and weaknesses of the author with this method.

Re:Simple (3, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422564)

With Google Translate. Translate into Spanish, then German, then English, then in LEET.

It should be easy to hide the style of the author and weaknesses with this method

I was expecting some hilariously screwed up result, but that turned out rather well. It also masked your writing style.

Use non-similar languages to get weirdness. (1)

carpefishus (1515573) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422832)

To Japanese and back to Engilish: Google Translate. Then translated into Spanish for REITs and German, and English. This author and disadvantages, should be easy to hide the style of using this method.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422630)

I used Google translate to translate your post into Spanish, then German, then back to English. Here is the result:

With Google Translate. Translate into Spanish, then German, then English, then in LEET.

It should be easy to hide the style of the author and weaknesses with this method.

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422766)

Google translate via Spanish and German:

"With Google Translate. Translate into Spanish, then German, then English, then in LEET.

It should be easy to hide the style of the author and weaknesses with this method."

Just make sure Google stops improving their language-recognition and you should be ok. Or doesn't tune it to match your style :)

Re:Simple (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422770)

I'd guess any repetitive technique like this with more than one obfuscation would make it increasingly unique and identifiable, no? If we're looking to lower the confidence of matching, maybe aim for the common denominator.

Perhaps it's better to write to a fourth grade level and just run everything against a common spell check engine, like the one in Outlook?

Re:Simple ~ so you would not have too...now -1 me (1)

cboslin (1532787) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422892)

Use Google translate. Translate it into Spanish, then into German, then back into English, then into LEET.

It should be simple to obscure the style and weaknesses of the author with this method.

Okay lets try this, setting English to Spanish; than Spanish to German; than German to English...because you don't want to, but you are curious like curious George.

Google Tranlate to Spanish:

Utilizar Google Translate. Traducir al español, luego en alemán, a continuación, de nuevo en Inglés, entonces en LEET.
Debe ser fácil de ocultar el estilo y las debilidades del autor con este método.

Google Translate to German:

Mit Google Translate. Übersetzen ins Spanische, dann Deutsch, dann wieder in Englisch, dann in LEET.
Es sollte einfach den Stil des Autors und Schwächen mit dieser Methode zu verstecken.

Google Tranlate from German to English

With Google Translate. Translate into Spanish, then German, then English, then in LEET.
It should be easy to hide the style of the author and weaknesses with this method

Could not find LEET in Google Translate, it must really be something....

Re:Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422940)

With Google Translate. Translate into Spanish, then German, then English, then in LEET.

It should be easy to hide the style of the author and weaknesses with this method

Translate with Google. Translate into Spanish, then German, then English, then in LEET.

It should be simple, style and weaknesses of the author with this method in the dark.

Google translate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422508)

Translate your text to some language, then back to English. For added fun, your letters will also be much more confusing.

I don't need to RTFA to tell you this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422512)

A new technique developed by researchers at Concordia University in Quebec could be used to unmask would-be anonymous emailers by sniffing out patterns in their writing style from use of all lowercase letters to common typos.

Although the typical "democratic" legal system is all sorts of fucked, as per the usual political pandering, I would hope that nobody could actually be convicted of a crime on this alone.

I recall (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422516)

This was how they caught the Unabomber. They published his diatribes, and his brother recognized his odd mixed up idioms.

Re:I recall - he is correct, mod up, not down... (3, Informative)

cboslin (1532787) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422982)

Here is an except that proves anonymous post is correct:

But even Unabombers are not infallible. Exulting in his apparent mastery of the FBI, the master criminal made his mistake, in the form of a 35,000- word treatise on the "Future of Industrial Society", which he submitted to the Washington Post and New York Times. If they published the rambling, anti-technology manifesto, the writer said, he would cease his campaign. After much soul-searching, the two papers did so on 20 September 1995, on the advice of the FBI.

Relatives in Chicago were struck by similarities between some of Ted Kaczynski's earlier writings and the rambling musings of the Unabomber's tract, and eventually his brother informed the FBI. And so the trail of 18 years, dotted with 200 detained suspects along the way, led to a hand- built cabin near the Continental divide. But the tale may not yet be over.

Here is the article from the Independent [independent.co.uk] .

I recollected that this was how the Unabomber was finally caught, via relatives who read his writings and recognized him... I respect that some mods might not like anonymous cowards, but if they are correct they should not be modded down, at least not to be fair.

I'd be easy (1)

weave (48069) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422548)

I developed a bad habit in very early days of usenet when there was a weird bug with Pnews where you had to begin a post with a blank line -- so to this day I still start every email (written in Pine) with a blank line first for some reason.

Re:I'd be easy (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35423002)

Ah. It's been a long time since I've thought about sacrifices to the line eater. [catb.org]

An old religion worshiping an unforgiving and primitive god. [catb.org]

I guess if your online writing style was incubated in the Usenet era, it might have enough quirks and idiosyncrasies to be identifiable.

This is why I cut & paste (5, Funny)

dim5 (844238) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422560)

This is why I cut & paste each word of anonymous emails from an online dictionary.

Untraceable.

Re:This is why I cut & paste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422924)

DAMN yOu, i Came HEre to maKE tHAt jokE.

The digital equivilent of cutting up magazines. (4, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422570)

It used to be that people would cut words from magazines and other papers to make ransom notes so no one could recognize their hand writing.

With this concept moving to the computer and internet, it will be trivial to find words, phrases, auto generation scripts and so on to do the digital equivalent. In fact, I think there are several programs out there that will pull random lines of text from several sources on the internet, take a real message and create a image of some sort to lay information over top of it, all just to get around spam filters. (disable the display of image in your email and you will be surprised at what is underneath them sometimes).

But something I can see this really having a problem with is how easy it might make the chance at setting someone else up to take a fall. Suppose you and I have emailed each other for quite some time now. I saved all our correspondence and farmed them to find phrases and word misspellings, cut and pasted them to make statements you never intended to make, then sent them off to threaten the president. Something even more disturbing, suppose we know each other in real life and I have the hots for your wife. I make my way into your house, plant some pipes and fertilizer beside some diesel fuel in one of your closets, get on your computer, sign up for a free email address from it using fake information and start spamming chat rooms and emailing government officials your intent to kill the president.

Re:The digital equivilent of cutting up magazines. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422986)

It used to the hots for your computer, sign up to lay information and create a real life and fertilizer beside some time now. I can see this really having a problem with is how easy it using fake information over top of image in real message and internet, it using fake information over top of text from it will be that will pull random lines of it, all our correspondence and you and so on your closets, get around spam filters. (disable the president. Something even more disturbing, suppose we know each other for your house, plant some pipes and pasted them sometimes). But something I think there are several sources on your email and other papers to find words, phrases, auto generation scripts and word misspellings, cut and word misspellings, cut and you and internet, take a real message and start spamming chat rooms and pasted them sometimes). But something I make ransom notes so no one of it, all just to the chance at what is how easy it will be trivial to find phrases and emailing government officials your computer, sign up for quite some sort to get around spam filters.

Safemaker, Safebreaker (1)

sehlat (180760) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422578)

In any event, the same techniques, available in open literature, can be used to build a
"Free Speech Anonymizer" package which would take and analyze a sample of your
emails and then analyze a new one, looking for the patterns you've used in the past
and suggesting changes to avoid them. Sort of a spell/grammar-check-in-reverse.

Ain't that right, Floyd?

Re:Safemaker, Safebreaker (1)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422774)

Huh, I wonder how well a Markov model applied here would work? Given a large body of your own writing, as well as a large body of writing from the internet, a computer could compare the likelihood of both you and the average person using any given 4- or 5- word tuple, and notify you where you use a phrase that you are statistically much more likely to use than the average person.

Re:Safemaker, Safebreaker (1)

sehlat (180760) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422936)

Or suggest substitute phrases that are statistically much more likely to be used. You can sound like any average idiot and nobody will be able to tell it's you. :)

Forthwith (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422590)

...the King's English shall be for thee to hide thine criminal ways.

guess who i am (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422604)

Academic papers are worthless until they are peer reviewed and 3rd party tested in an implementation. There are only a few journals that screen submissions well.

The actual research paper (4, Informative)

Sara Chan (138144) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422616)

The actual research paper is at

http://www.dfrws.org/2008/proceedings/p42-iqbal.pdf [dfrws.org]

Note that it was published in 2008. So Slashdot is reporting relatively quickly here.

Arrest Fung at once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422628)

>>> "In the past few years, we've seen an alarming increase in the number of cybercrimes involving anonymous emails," says study co-author Benjamin Fung, a professor of Information Systems Engineering at Concordia University, in a statement. "These emails can transmit threats or child pornography, facilitate communications between criminals or carry viruses."

His e-mail contains all the right key words, why isn't he in jail already?

Not Anonymous (2)

khr (708262) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422642)

I long ago gave up any idea that my writing would be very anonymous...

As an American working in software companies in India for ten years, whenever managers sent out surveys they said would be "totally anonymous" I always figured with my American writing style (complete sentences, very few typos, no "spel it like u sa it", active voice, writing out our product and company name in full) everyone would recognize it was my writing anyway... And that was usually the case, as people who weren't supposed to know who wrote what would invariably reply to me, "hey, why did you write that?"

oh good, voodoo is evidence (1)

inkscapee (1994086) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422662)

Just what we need, something iffy given the status of actual evidence. I feel much better now.

I'm writing this statement with .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422668)

I'm writing this statement with the knowledge that it will be tracked.

I think the article has many interesting points. I will think about them.

When you can't be anonymous and you realize that anything and everything you say can be tracked back to you, you will never be genuine. Ever.

Of course, I am joking. I'll be completely genuine for YOU!

Did I mention that even if one posts something genuine, they'll hedge just in case they're tracked down?

Of course, I would never hedge, but others might.

But of course, ALL OF YOU understand this because you're the most intelligent folks on the internet.

Then again, there are others who are most intelligent and insightful - that means YOU - whoever tracks me down and shoves this post in my face. Kudos to you for being soooooo internet saving for finding this post!

Then again, if anyone finds this post offensive, I am completely joking! This is a joke! Really, I always joke!

No, I'm just joking!

Re:I'm writing this statement with .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35423018)

I write this statement knowing that it is being pursued.

I think the article has many interesting points. I'll think about it.

If you are not anonymous and you realize that everything you say you can be traced back, will never really can be. Never.

Of course I'm kidding. I'm quite right for you!

Did I mention that when a show something authentic, it covers in case you follow?

Of course, never cover, but others can.

But of course, understands all this because you're the smartest people on the Internet.

There are also other, more intelligent and interesting is - it means - Memories of me and push this post on my face. Congratulations to you who saves soooooo Internet this post to find it!

On the other hand, if anyone has this post offensive, I absolutely love! This is a joke! Actually, I always fun!

No, just kidding!

Uhm... duh? (1)

assantisz (881107) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422676)

Does this really come as a surprise?

not really that impressive (1)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422682)

So, ThEy're VEry good at Judging OBScure punctuation patterns to determine email authorship?

Baloney! wILL you Give me A . . .hmm, Too hard to finESse that last bit.

I write in the style of the recipient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422702)

Most of the time I write emails in the style the recipient writes in. Same idea as talking to the level of the listener.

Lost in translation (or how to obfuscate writing) (1)

unsupported (230678) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422716)

To anonymize your writing all you have to do is translate your original text into a second language and then translate the secondary language back into the original language. Any nuance or personalization would be lost in translation.

According to a friend this works for plagiarizing papers.

Your "friend" (1)

nowen2dot (1768088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35423046)

According to a friend this works for plagiarizing papers.

I see. And how often does your friend do this?

Dear Newt Gingrich: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422718)

Sincerely [0101000001...001010.com]

Just change your writing style (1)

kvvbassboy (2010962) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422768)

Wait wut? Whenever I write an anonymous message or letter, I always change my writing style randomly to something else. It's not just machines which can parse through capitalizations, punctuations and spelling errors in a text, you know?

ya, ok. (1)

tboulay (458216) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422772)

Cash, Internet cafe, translate, translate back, send.

Research money well spent huh.

This gives writers like me an edge in AC (2)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422826)

I actually write in different styles, and used that for different RPG game systems and stories - now all I have to do is go to a nearby cafe (cant go a block without running into two) and use their free computers using different personas.

In fact, I think I'll start studying the writing styles of Cheney, Rove, and Fnarf and using them as writing templates for my next posts ...

Pretty easy to do.

I think most of my current personae are quite radically different in writing style from my other published pseudonyms.

Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35422840)

As you run through the translator and back. This will do much to get rid of your telltale habits.

Wow ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422850)

I'm sure I saw this in an episode of Numb3rs once. :-P

This is progress... how? (1)

rs1n (1867908) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422866)

Their conclusion is completely off base. Even if their software is 100% accurate, it can only categorize a certain style of writing as having come from a single person (and that's still debatable since it's not too hard to duplicate type-written styles). What if every anonymous writer uses the same script to turn their text into "1337"-speak? The software would not have the ability to match the style to any one person -- it can only conclude that it is very likely that such types of a message was written by the same person/script.

Caps lock (1)

wvisaacs (2005674) | more than 3 years ago | (#35422934)

or run on sentences that have absolutely not punctuated and horribel speeling to bot then theyll never no it was u but comprehnsion might go down the toobs

By the way, which one's Pink? (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 3 years ago | (#35423086)

It won't ever BE evidence, but it will lead to evidence. I'm sure the NSA uses software like this along with speech recognition software and voiceprint recognition software to create investigative leads for follow-up.

Clip and paste (1)

RickyG (1009867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35423108)

I guess we will have to do like in the "old" days. Clip words and letters from newspapers and magazines, and paste them in the email... Another trick. Send it through a translator to another language, then back to your native tongue. There is always something "missing in translation" and one of them is always the style of the writer...

grammar and spell check before u send! (1)

henryj (2011702) | more than 3 years ago | (#35423114)

If the guy used a good grammar and spell checker when sending out the anonymous email, all this analysis would be quite useless. I'm a long time client of CryptoHeaven http://www.cryptoheaven.com/ [cryptoheaven.com] and I feel very confident that my emails remain fully anonymous... -henry
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