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Linguistics Identifies Anonymous Users

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the that's-why-i-run-my-emails-through-google-translate-a-few-times dept.

Privacy 215

mask.of.sanity writes "Researchers have examined writing styles to identify previously anonymous carders and hackers operating on underground forums. Up to 80 percent of users who wrote at least 5000 words across their posts could be identified using linguistic techniques. Techniques such as stylometric analysis were used to track users who posted across different forums, and could even be used to unveil authors of thesis papers or blogs who had taken to underground networks."

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Anonymous First Post (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529101)

Anonymous First Post... you'll never guess who I am

Re:Anonymous First Post (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529121)

4990.5 more words please.

Re:Anonymous First Post (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529349)

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Etiam velit lorem, faucibus ut venenatis vel, suscipit vel mi. In eu risus sed elit lacinia porta eu quis est. Sed ligula massa, adipiscing ac porttitor sit amet, porta eu nibh. Praesent lobortis gravida egestas. Vestibulum fringilla vulputate libero vel tincidunt. Suspendisse potenti. Donec auctor ipsum vitae augue molestie luctus. Proin pharetra aliquam nibh ac ullamcorper. Aliquam consectetur mauris eget velit pellentesque convallis. Aenean auctor lobortis risus, eu malesuada nibh semper vitae. Proin non sollicitudin magna. Aenean rutrum, purus at feugiat varius, nunc turpis aliquet dolor, quis molestie velit mauris vitae augue. Vivamus eu sapien vitae nunc elementum volutpat a sit amet elit. Fusce leo arcu, eleifend non rhoncus vitae, egestas at sem. Sed sed magna at sapien condimentum vestibulum posuere sit amet mauris. Donec est ante, adipiscing vel pulvinar sit amet, consectetur in dolor. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Quisque sed nisl nibh. Nunc lobortis sodales placerat. Nulla volutpat, magna ac porttitor pretium, lorem lorem scelerisque ligula, sit amet congue libero nibh sed enim. Phasellus venenatis, risus sed lacinia congue, est sem viverra justo, vel luctus dui sem sit amet justo. Donec semper tempus urna at iaculis. Praesent auctor fermentum urna nec facilisis. Phasellus et enim nisi. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Proin tempus tempor enim id lobortis. Vivamus luctus nisl non ante lacinia in vestibulum lorem convallis. Quisque pellentesque erat a arcu dignissim interdum. Suspendisse sed porttitor sapien. Nam pellentesque pharetra odio. Proin mi nisl, vehicula ac hendrerit in, molestie in orci. Nulla facilisi. Nulla facilisi. Phasellus in varius sem. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Maecenas auctor eleifend ultricies. Nulla nec mauris eget elit tincidunt porta. Quisque leo massa, pharetra nec posuere eu, scelerisque eu lectus. Suspendisse ullamcorper lorem eu nisl gravida auctor. Donec placerat tristique dapibus. Nulla rhoncus luctus blandit. Quisque pulvinar rutrum risus lacinia posuere. Maecenas vitae tellus at leo pulvinar luctus at ac purus. Vestibulum eros enim, gravida vel aliquam at, aliquam sed diam. Sed eget nibh risus. Duis ut eros neque. Sed sed euismod nunc. Nullam consequat convallis ipsum, vel pellentesque massa scelerisque et. Aliquam sit amet erat dolor, at bibendum tortor. Integer vitae neque eu lacus placerat tempor. Cras nulla magna, placerat ac luctus at, sollicitudin eget erat. Ut porta congue nisi, eget varius lacus elementum quis. Maecenas eget viverra elit. Vestibulum eget sollicitudin massa. Nullam blandit, nunc quis suscipit faucibus, elit leo ullamcorper eros, sit amet imperdiet nunc leo vel nisi. Cras libero massa, euismod suscipit auctor id, ultrices nec nisl. Quisque a felis risus. Sed eget risus odio. Morbi feugiat, orci vitae rutrum lobortis, ligula tortor tempus augue, vel accumsan enim magna lobortis velit. Vestibulum vel justo ut lorem malesuada congue. Curabitur eget ligula pulvinar turpis rutrum rutrum. Vivamus metus justo, placerat nec mollis sit amet, feugiat nec nulla. Donec elementum libero id purus vulputate interdum. Etiam a commodo libero. Curabitur faucibus, sem sit amet egestas adipiscing, tortor orci commodo sapien, ut tincidunt nunc velit et arcu. Cras ut tellus magna. Phasellus vel sapien nisl, at fringilla tellus. Donec in sagittis massa. Nunc quam lectus, hendrerit at tincidunt nec, lacinia nec eros. Etiam eget hendrerit felis. In varius neque vitae elit blandit commodo. Nullam eleifend placerat sapien, sit amet ultrices purus vestibulum quis. Donec tellus lorem, bibendum vitae congue at, aliquet vitae quam. Fusce accumsan nisi in orci ultricies auctor. Nulla sed sagittis ligula. Mauris eleifend venenatis enim non condimentum. Mauris interdum laoreet ultrices. Duis convallis ornare sapien posuere fermentum. Nunc varius urna orci. Duis ac risus sapien. Maecenas condimentum, elit vel auctor congue, enim nisl sagittis nibh, ac luctus tellus tellus vel nibh. Proin porta justo pellentesque lorem luctus vitae imperdiet urna scelerisque. Cras tincidunt, neque ac iaculis faucibus, elit nibh rutrum nibh, ac ullamcorper magna massa vitae ligula. Curabitur dignissim elementum risus, ac mollis odio bibendum a. Integer in elit magna. Nam egestas cursus sapien ac tincidunt. Pellentesque tristique vestibulum lorem, ac dignissim eros scelerisque vel. Aliquam adipiscing, felis non iaculis sollicitudin, est elit ultricies lectus, vel adipiscing lacus felis eu mi. Nam ultricies fringilla sapien a ultricies. Cras et dolor quis eros blandit varius in at libero. Nullam gravida nisl elementum dolor pulvinar nec sagittis massa ultricies. Nunc lectus libero, hendrerit nec pulvinar fermentum, adipiscing quis velit. Nunc dictum rhoncus mauris, eu hendrerit augue tempor eget. Pellentesque velit dolor, sagittis at viverra a, suscipit ut tortor. Vestibulum cursus tellus nec tortor ultricies vel adipiscing dui aliquam. Sed ullamcorper orci at diam consequat pellentesque. Mauris ac sem eu nulla pretium aliquet. Aliquam fringilla faucibus orci a malesuada. Sed mattis elementum porta. Vestibulum ante neque, iaculis id interdum a, vulputate nec nunc. Duis risus urna, facilisis placerat vehicula quis, varius vel risus. Phasellus ut nisi sem. Donec nec sapien eu quam aliquet ullamcorper a quis mi. Quisque volutpat, nulla non rutrum rhoncus, turpis purus blandit dolor, quis vulputate orci felis a magna. Sed est nibh, tempus et dictum vitae, sodales quis metus. Etiam non egestas metus. Proin ut quam ligula, eu placerat sapien. Duis non ullamcorper felis. Nunc sed metus id massa blandit iaculis in quis ligula. Donec aliquam metus ac neque tincidunt facilisis. Cras ipsum massa, gravida ac mattis et, lobortis eget purus. In accumsan diam non arcu consequat aliquet. Vestibulum rhoncus eros ut massa dictum sed tincidunt quam scelerisque. In enim nisi, placerat et aliquam vitae, pharetra vitae purus. Ut elementum velit quis dui pellentesque imperdiet. In purus orci, facilisis vitae rutrum nec, interdum et justo. Vestibulum nec mauris nisl, nec ornare risus. Mauris ut quam magna. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Vestibulum commodo risus et turpis bibendum eu tempus dolor volutpat. Nullam posuere quam vel diam ullamcorper aliquam. Maecenas eget massa eget est euismod mattis. Integer non risus velit, id pretium enim. Cras vel sem quam, et laoreet dolor. Fusce malesuada tristique est et dictum. Suspendisse mattis consequat arcu ut viverra. Donec a elit eu mi sollicitudin euismod at et risus. Cras hendrerit sapien at magna eleifend volutpat. Nam gravida leo eget augue ullamcorper quis hendrerit eros auctor. Aenean vitae leo libero, non placerat eros. Praesent euismod justo quis neque adipiscing a pharetra eros vehicula. Vestibulum vitae velit tellus, a cursus massa. Cras a bibendum orci. Etiam vel arcu elit, vel interdum orci. Suspendisse eu est ut metus tincidunt bibendum. Aliquam tortor dui, aliquet at dignissim vel, sagittis viverra justo. Nunc accumsan, felis ut tempor ornare, quam lorem gravida urna, eget vulputate velit mi id nibh. Vivamus faucibus auctor malesuada. Curabitur feugiat felis a lectus ornare venenatis. Quisque elit orci, porta faucibus vulputate in, mollis vitae elit. Sed cursus quam eget nisl egestas tincidunt. In feugiat sem sed metus pulvinar eget mattis libero sagittis. Nam quam mauris, eleifend a sollicitudin at, vehicula quis dolor. Integer faucibus, magna ac rutrum laoreet, dui erat porttitor quam, in vulputate est dui vel ante. Sed vel nunc arcu. Nullam pellentesque mi molestie mauris venenatis quis sollicitudin nisl aliquam. Aenean congue, nunc et laoreet convallis, lectus mi tincidunt enim, sit amet elementum ante tellus at ante. Maecenas eget lacus et purus commodo scelerisque id in nulla. Sed tincidunt arcu ac risus tincidunt id porta eros elementum. Duis bibendum massa nec risus rhoncus nec pellentesque turpis faucibus. Cras laoreet hendrerit elit quis suscipit. Nullam elit sapien, molestie in consequat ut, faucibus eu dui. Fusce eget tellus vitae turpis elementum egestas et non neque. Duis vel libero eget metus sagittis iaculis. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Vivamus ut velit nulla. Curabitur dictum facilisis posuere. Pellentesque aliquet dui non arcu aliquam id molestie mauris bibendum. Praesent a tellus ut ipsum gravida pharetra quis in lorem. Phasellus justo massa, molestie vitae pretium in, elementum sed nisi. Etiam sed viverra purus. In nisi magna, euismod id pharetra eu, venenatis ac diam. Nulla facilisi. Donec mollis quam neque, a accumsan est. Donec purus tortor, aliquam a mollis sed, viverra id tortor. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Fusce nec neque diam, a viverra mauris. Donec a diam eget urna porttitor scelerisque. Vivamus sit amet lectus erat, ac ullamcorper metus. In tempus tristique magna et accumsan. Nulla facilisi. In accumsan fermentum mollis. Donec turpis orci, elementum vitae sagittis sed, blandit non lectus. Aliquam erat volutpat. Duis id nunc id augue suscipit imperdiet sed quis justo. Etiam sed elit justo. Aliquam eu gravida nunc. Ut in ligula sem, sed tempus mauris. Nullam at nunc et neque eleifend pharetra. Aliquam vitae nisl leo. Maecenas interdum tempor tristique. Sed ultricies vestibulum sapien quis pretium. Integer ut libero ac arcu ultricies vehicula. Vestibulum augue purus, vestibulum et rhoncus at, ultricies a neque. Integer venenatis orci eget risus commodo placerat. Donec ac eros nulla, in vulputate enim. Pellentesque blandit lorem quis quam bibendum ut faucibus urna faucibus. Donec ullamcorper, lectus at mollis dapibus, metus arcu ornare ipsum, sed vulputate diam magna sit amet augue. Vivamus mauris libero, tristique vel posuere at, tincidunt in magna. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Aliquam a mauris et nunc condimentum tincidunt. Donec ligula mauris, varius vel ullamcorper nec, convallis quis nisl. Quisque consectetur, sem at pulvinar pellentesque, orci enim pellentesque lorem, id congue mauris turpis eget nunc. Nunc luctus auctor eros dictum tincidunt. In urna tortor, porttitor vitae tempor vitae, posuere nec felis. Aliquam a tempus neque. Sed sed felis neque. Quisque non ipsum sem. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Mauris lobortis accumsan congue. Donec commodo velit at leo ornare eget tempus purus lacinia. Nulla eu ultricies mi. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Etiam sed turpis in urna bibendum pulvinar. Nam ultrices, augue vel condimentum dictum, elit leo lacinia nisi, ac blandit magna mi a mi. Sed pretium ante a nibh semper id feugiat neque scelerisque. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Mauris rhoncus tellus ac est faucibus ut ullamcorper est tempus. Praesent facilisis, arcu ac ornare tempus, leo risus varius velit, quis molestie nibh lectus sit amet libero. Nullam semper iaculis lectus. Sed neque eros, sagittis nec vulputate a, tristique et nibh. Donec et augue quis dolor facilisis elementum at sit amet turpis. Morbi interdum lobortis libero nec lacinia. Curabitur rutrum egestas rhoncus. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Maecenas aliquam massa a neque commodo lobortis. Suspendisse sit amet est in quam congue rutrum. Cras id nisi et nisl convallis sollicitudin eget vel sapien. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Curabitur leo enim, iaculis et elementum at, consequat id nisl. Morbi nec egestas dolor. In lacus nisi, sagittis a ultricies vel, gravida ac dui. Mauris tincidunt porttitor sem, eu iaculis massa vehicula faucibus. Ut vel sem sed velit pellentesque consequat. Fusce suscipit nisi et ligula ultricies non interdum tortor commodo. Morbi libero mauris, tempus eget ornare eu, lobortis sit amet nunc. Proin nec massa sem. Ut eros turpis, vulputate id sodales in, placerat ac ante. Fusce pellentesque laoreet adipiscing. Mauris venenatis metus felis. Nullam nec tortor sed tortor viverra accumsan placerat a dolor. Integer ac leo diam, non dictum lorem. Praesent faucibus lorem eu nisl pulvinar id vulputate purus placerat. Pellentesque hendrerit neque et odio interdum feugiat. Fusce et sem sit amet odio aliquam auctor et at velit. Aenean vitae arcu in enim sagittis tincidunt. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Mauris at tortor est. Pellentesque mauris nisi, luctus in adipiscing condimentum, pretium sit amet erat. Praesent eget nunc ut mi lobortis ornare nec non felis. Quisque sed mauris vel sapien consequat egestas a iaculis.

Re:Anonymous First Post (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529537)

I identified you. You are Cicero.

Re:Anonymous First Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529305)

Please be badanalogyguy - we've missed you!

Re:Anonymous First Post (1)

Black LED (1957016) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529689)

I was hoping for TheTurdReport, but alas, the account no longer exists :(

Re:Anonymous First Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529403)

Someone called out my AC posts here once using such an analysis. (Apparently I have a linguistic tick which they identified.)

However they also incorrectly concluded I was a particular Microsoft employee, so they were probably just a typical paranoid-schizophrenic "FOSS advocate" basement dweller.

Re:Anonymous First Post (5, Interesting)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529553)

Sock puppet accounts are also apparent from these linguistic tics. Sometimes, resorting to a particular analogy or getting hot-tempered at a specific topic or a certain kind of point of view can also give away the identity of the author. So maybe limit oneself to 5000/144 = 34 tweets per tweeter account so that you can't be figured out. And writing style and favorite kinds of rant was also how the Unabomber [wikipedia.org] was found out: his family members recognized his particular pet peeves and rants and writing patterns and sent their suspicions in to the F.B. I.

Re:Anonymous First Post (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529761)

Someone called out my AC posts here once using such an analysis. (Apparently I have a linguistic tick which they identified.)

However they also incorrectly concluded I was a particular Microsoft employee, so they were probably just a typical paranoid-schizophrenic "FOSS advocate" basement dweller.

That's right. You have "ticks" instead of "tics"!

Re:Anonymous First Post (2)

mrbester (200927) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529675)

We can narrow it down to someone who is particular about correct capitalisation (and therefore probably spelling, punctuation and grammar) denoting an education and attention to detail not normally seen in forum posts. As this is a more technical forum you most likely program in a language where letter case is of paramount importance and have done so for at least 5 years in a professional position. You probably also write reports indicating a level of seniority.

That should reduce the number of likely candidates somewhat.

Re:Anonymous First Post (2)

water-and-sewer (612923) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530271)

Classic - kudos to you for a great laugh. I was thinking though, "this study doesn't help much because it's rare to find places where people write more than a line or two anymore."

Go back to the old days of Usenet (80s, early 90s) and posts were long, well thought-out, and useful. Look at OLGA, for example, which collected written music in TAB format for guitarists (ha - remember when THAT was the biggest threat to the music industry?). Tons of useful stuff. Hardly anyone does that anymore; it's mostly short sentences. The exceptions - like tech forums - are in situations when no one cares much to be anonymous anyway.

It's been tough to get people to pay attention to the forum at www.dictatorshandbook.net for two reasons: I think people are reticent to opine on various dictators, all of whom might put them in jail, and because hardly anyone posts on forums anymore (yes, I know, there are some exceptions). Look at the length of the average comment on a Reddit thread, for example - a line or two, sometimes just a word or two.

Re:Anonymous First Post (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530679)

Classic - kudos to you for a great laugh. I was thinking though, "this study doesn't help much because it's rare to find places where people write more than a line or two anymore." Go back to the old days of Usenet (80s, early 90s) and posts were long, well thought-out, and useful.

Not particularly... you just hang out in the 'wrong' places (not just websites/forums, but usenet groups as well), both for the length and for the nature of the writing.

It's been tough to get people to pay attention to the forum at www.dictatorshandbook.net for two reasons: I think people are reticent to opine on various dictators, all of whom might put them in jail, and because hardly anyone posts on forums anymore (yes, I know, there are some exceptions).

As far as getting people to visit and pay attention to your forum... I suspect people pay it no mind because it looks like one of the many crappy-ass and pointless websites on the 'net. At first glance it seems like a site mostly designed to sell what looks like either a parody or a tinfoil-hat book with no reason to pay further attention or treat it seriously. Your idiotic twitter feed doesn't help either... Nor does the way you hide the forums or your use of a weird forum format...

Damit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529107)

They know who I am. I will now have to type in random styles.

  Little do you know the AC that posts here is in fact just one person.

Re:Damit (4, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529157)

"They know who I am. I will now have to type in random styles."

But not in Gangnam Style or they'll think you're Korean.

Re:Damit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529201)

You would want me to think that....
(clickity clack)
(Analysing...)

  Psy!

Re:I will now have to type in... (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529185)

You could always type in Gangnam Style!

Re:I will now have to type in... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529443)

Broken Condom Style!

Re:Damit (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529481)

They know who I am. I will now have to type in random styles.

  Little do you know the AC that posts here is in fact just one person.

Yes, we know.

I know you mean. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530171)

Since I am the same person I should not use the royal we now my cover is blowm by me. I need to stop me doing that by telling me off.

Oh noes! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529115)

Wait, 5000 words? I think I'm safe.

Re: Oh noes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529141)

For sure

Re:Oh noes! (1)

rvw (755107) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529873)

Wait, 5000 words? I think I'm safe.

You Anonymous Coward - I bet you write 5k words in just a day!

Detect this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529131)

wg wgsedg wsewef awe fasd fsefawe fgwagasdg wae fasdf wsef awef sd fas fawe

Re:Detect this (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529175)

Found [gaiaonline.com] . :)

Re:Detect this (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529177)

Well your left handed with your frequent use of left keys.
You have small hands given the fact that you were able to press w with out pressing e immediately.
The fact that you have said you look forward to our anonymous overlords or a Beowulf cluster of AC means your reasonably intelligent for Slashdot.
Your not aggressively hassling the editor, previous poster, or the writer. Signifying your female.
You have too much time on your hands posting on Slashdot.

  http://www.complex.com/girls/2009/08/sexy-southpaws-the-10-hottest-left-handed-women/page/11

Your Oprah.

Re:Detect this (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529445)

and your /= your're go back to english class!

Re:Detect this (0)

Splab (574204) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529769)

Perhaps you should go sit with him? English is with a capital e.

Don't throw stones etc.

Re:Detect this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530015)

That sentence wasn't a question???!!! No question mark required???!!!

Whoosh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530675)

That was the sound of the joke going over your head!

captcha: comics

Re:Detect this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530013)

and your /= your're go back to english class!

That's "English" with a capital E. You better join the class.

Re:Detect this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530515)

Or it's a deliberate attempt to mask his identity, as you may be doing by beginning English and "and" with lower case letters. I've done this in the past when posting in places I'd rather not in any way have link back to me. A few other things you can add to your odd capitalisation:

Alternate between US and English spellings
Adopt (or drop) the Oxford comma
Swear (or don't)
Write run-on sentences
Capitalise after a semi-colon

My favourite is to adopt hiphop/R&B English:

"nigga u fronting!! Only sucka bitches gon buy ur shit if u dont got good english"

Re:Detect this (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529999)

Well you're left handed, with your frequent use of left keys.

Or someone that is comfortable with WASD+Mouse.

Try me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529143)

Who am I?

this just in... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529159)

Anonymous hackers now using tools to scramble their writing style so they stay anonymous.

Heh. (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530629)

I now Master Yoda get to my identity mask.

I wrote a letter to the CEO once (5, Interesting)

Omnifarious (11933) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529167)

I worked for a smallish (but not incredibly tiny, maybe 100 employees) company and wrote a letter to the CEO once. We'd been castigated by someone who'd taken over the local office because the company was doing poorly. A number of austerity measures were implemented. I did not find those to be that annoying because I realized it was either that or not have a job. But the castigation didn't sit well with me. We were in trouble because of the decisions of a few bad managers, not the behavior of average employees.

So I wrote a letter about it. He stripped my name off and presented it in an executive meeting to all the people directly under him. He asked "Why am I getting letters like this?". Everybody who worked in my office immediately knew who it was. I had a distinctive writing voice, and a strong reputation.

It did not lead to me being fired. I was actually highly respected there. It led to me being encouraged to have an honest sit-down talk with the new manager for our division (the guy who'd made the speech I wasn't happy about). I think we both came away from that meeting a lot happier about the other.

But that was a strong lesson to me. If I ever really want to be anonymous I'm going to have to purposely work on adopting a completely different writing style. And I will have to keep a wall up between styles and never 'slip'.

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (1)

fredgiblet (1063752) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529227)

You can also have someone else write it for you.

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529351)

Or a program semantically re-factor it.

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (3, Interesting)

Omnifarious (11933) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529405)

I've thought about that. That's an interesting and tricky problem. Though, if there's a program that can detect it, that means the patterns are codified well enough that you can write a program to obscure them. The problem is, what about the program that detects these patterns that you don't know the implementation of? Will you actually be fooling it?

Of course, you have the same problem if you adopt a different writing style. Is it different enough? Is something essential slipping through?

You could use both techniques. Have a program assist you in avoiding the use of certain words when using one voice and the use of others when using a different voice.

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (2)

Pieroxy (222434) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529795)

Just Google translate it to and from any language other than English.

the problem is, the meaning might be gone as well by the time it's English-y again.

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530143)

And Google (a.k.a "The Evil Empire" TM) will have a cached copy of the original with the IP address you posted from. In other words you'll also need to go through the magic 7 proxies !

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529421)

If you're trying to avoid having two different identities associated when you're having an IRC conversation or something, that could get really tricky.

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (2)

GNious (953874) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529721)

Write it in a different language, then run it through 5 different translation engines across a dusin languages, ending in which-ever is the native language of the recipient.... that should throw them for a loop.

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529829)

skip all that and just run it thru the Jive filter.

what it is!

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530331)

"dusin", as in DOZEN?

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530023)

I don't know about him, but I try to pick my words very carefully. I've reworded the sentences in this post over a few dozen times already. Handing it off to someone else would make me cringe.

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (1)

toygeek (473120) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529365)

Alfred is that you! Its been years, old buddy! How are you?

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529441)

It's easy. Use short sentences and only common words.

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (2)

famebait (450028) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529835)

Only you would do that.

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529827)

I worked for a smallish (but not incredibly tiny, maybe 100 employees) company and wrote a letter to the CEO once. We'd been castigated by someone who'd taken over the local office because the company was doing poorly. A number of austerity measures were implemented. I did not find those to be that annoying because I realized it was either that or not have a job. But the castigation didn't sit well with me. We were in trouble because of the decisions of a few bad managers, not the behavior of average employees.

So I wrote a letter about it. He stripped my name off and presented it in an executive meeting to all the people directly under him. He asked "Why am I getting letters like this?". Everybody who worked in my office immediately knew who it was. I had a distinctive writing voice, and a strong reputation.

It did not lead to me being fired. I was actually highly respected there. It led to me being encouraged to have an honest sit-down talk with the new manager for our division (the guy who'd made the speech I wasn't happy about). I think we both came away from that meeting a lot happier about the other.

But that was a strong lesson to me. If I ever really want to be anonymous I'm going to have to purposely work on adopting a completely different writing style. And I will have to keep a wall up between styles and never 'slip'.

Geeks should take notice of this. Real dialogue beats passive-aggressive responses for dealing with difficult people and problems.

Re:I wrote a letter to the CEO once (2)

Renraku (518261) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530069)

Ahh, but real dialogue can get one into trouble when dealing with the political minded. You see, there are those out there that are not working towards the same goals as you. Even if you're a part of the same team and of the same company, there are those that think the illusion of them being correct is more important than the welfare of the team.

It can be difficult to have a truly open dialogue with people of this sort, as they are quick to attack your reputation or pull rank and have you removed from the equation altogether. Imagine a World War I commanding officer that orders wave after wave of soldiers to run into the meat grinder of overlaid and well protected machine gun fire, and when it disastrously fails, they do it again. Those that complain are ordered into said meat grinder. The corporate world is no different.

I think a bigger threat to geeks in business are when they approach such situations without due caution. If you make a claim, you must be prepared to back it up to everyone that could be interested. Real concrete evidence. References. Citations. Etc. Basically, the idea is to sell your idea rather than to challenge theirs or the one in place.

Can be much complex (1)

faragon (789704) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529173)

In addition to these metrics, other can be added as well, e.g.: post date, size, tabulation, punctuation, capitalization, regional vocabulary, etc. Also, once you can add frequency-space analysis, naive bayesian filters, in order to increase precision, or to probe against other texts. Anyone interested about investing in text-rewriter technology in order to both detect similarities and automatic-rewrite?

Re:Can be much complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529207)

Yes.

Re:Can be much complex (1)

mjwx (966435) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529265)

block of text with no grammar for the win

Wow. (1)

SuDZ (450180) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529193)

It just seems brilliant to me, but I can tell you first hand, how I may talk in my thesis papers is very different that how I may speak or come across in my C++ blog, beer brewing forum, car forums, fishing forums, my backyard BBQ blog, etc, etc, etc. I wonder what the accuracy rating is.

I recognise my own writing (3, Insightful)

kawabago (551139) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529203)

I'd be rather surprised if someone else couldn't.

Re:I recognise my own writing (2)

trev.norris (2010080) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529261)

iz hard 2 change how u speek [speaklolcat.com] ?

Y U NO MAKE SENSE (2)

Nossie (753694) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529233)

"Leetspeak, an alternative alphabet popular in some forum circles, cannot be translated."

*sigh* does this mean I must resent people that use this form of communication less?

I'm not so sure I can stoop so low.

Re:Y U NO MAKE SENSE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529979)

7h@t ap3@rs 2 b th3 @s3! \|\/|-|y u s0 d1scr!man@t0ry N 3 w@y?

I can't think of a non-evil use for this (5, Interesting)

joshamania (32599) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529281)

This is so bad I don't know where to begin. There is nothing, ever, that excuses this. For every zodiac crazy serial killer or copyright scofflaw they try to apply this to (and fail) there will be thousands and thousands of people that will be persecuted by organizations and governments for expressing their opinions. While this won't have a big effect in the West for half a generation, oppressive governments are going to be all over this.

And then, in ten or fifteen years, the youth will have grown with this technology and become accustomed to it...accepting it. Just like facebook has been accepted.

I'd move to Mars when it's possible but some bureaucrat will analyze everything I've ever written on the interwebz (and I've been mostly not stupid about shit I've written online since 1995 or so) and make some arbitrary decision about how I'm not acceptable because I'm not a huge fan of authority or some such crap.

Way to go humanity.

Re:I can't think of a non-evil use for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529379)

You always say stuff like that.

Re:I can't think of a non-evil use for this (1)

famebait (450028) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529849)

Not to mention: Mars will be worse.

Re:I can't think of a non-evil use for this (5, Informative)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529937)

Are you serious?

You write as if some new method had been invented. There is no news in the above article. Authorship identification has been a reliable tool for many decades, a whole branch of linguistics (forensic linguistics) deals with it and similar topics like dialect recognition. Under certain circumstances you can even identify personality treats of the author, check out content analysis software like LIWC [liwc.net] for example.

And, yes, plenty of serial killers and blackmailers have been captured with the help of these methods.

Re:I can't think of a non-evil use for this (1)

rmstar (114746) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530029)

This is so bad I don't know where to begin.

Well, I for one look forward to the mess these methods will cause in academia, where it is likely that they can be used to identify the authors of referee reports.

L337 5p34k (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529307)

"Leetspeak, an alternative alphabet popular in some forum circles, cannot be translated."

Looks like leetspeak actually has a use now: H4KK3rZ N 5Kr1p7 K1dd13z r3j01(3!!! LOLZ!

At least until they integrate OCR in to the software. Then it's useless again.

google translate (4, Interesting)

sl149q (1537343) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529321)

One way to change a bunch of the stylistic queues would be to convert your message to another language and back using Google Translate. Depending on the intermediate language(s) and possibly using different translators should neutralize some things.

Re:google translate (5, Funny)

sdnoob (917382) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529341)

using chinese as an intermediary will give you text written by motherboard manual writers. perfect cover.

Re:google translate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529997)

The yumber labels J12 is using for the bios.

Re:google translate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530565)

Or just skip the translation and write directly in Engrish [engrish.com] .

Re:google translate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529343)

One way to change a bunch of the stylistic queues would be to convert your message to another language and back using Google Translate. Depending on the intermediate language(s) and possibly using different translators should neutralize some things.

One way to modify a bunch of stylistic queue will be to convert the messages back your different language translation using Google. Depending on the (s) an intermediate language, using a separate translator perhaps, it is necessary to neutralize some things.

Re:google translate (1)

iktos (166530) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529961)

I just tried that with a couple of paragraphs: Google Translate returns the exact text including mis-spellings even though it had correctly identified what the mis-spelled words actually should be.
This suggests that there are language independent methods of "identifying" writers.

Re:google translate (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530031)

If you RTFA you'll see that the researchers themselves used Google Translate to convert most of the "bad stuff" into English, because the source text was in Russian. That, right there, makes me question the validity of this research. Also given that they were reading underground forums it's not clear to me how they verified they'd cross-correlated posts correctly. Something to read up on later, I think.

Re:google translate (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530549)

It can also alter the meaning of your text. Translation is an inexact art, at best, even for skilled and experienced practitioners - which automatic translators emphatically are *not*.

This goes times ten if your text includes technical terms, or wording which relies on alternate meanings or connotation. (Things a native reader would either know, or would be reasonably expected to infer from context.) This is why writing in English from non-English speakers (for example) often looks so funny when you encounter it. It's often almost robotically precise, yet it still stands out from (say) an English major or grammar nerd because it lacks those subtle contextual cues and clues.

Thesis (1)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529355)

and could even be used to unveil authors of thesis papers or blogs who had taken to underground networks.

... a good reason to do it like zu Guttenberg then... Nobody will tie any of his underground writings to his thesis...

College essays (2)

nightgeometry (661444) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529369)

Isn't this just the same software that college use to detect plagiarism and whether someone else wrote that essay for you? I thought it was in common use in academia.

Re:College essays (4, Insightful)

ForgedArtificer (1777038) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529457)

Actually, it's the exact opposite.

Anti-plagiarism software searches for the same content with completely different styles.

Writer identification involves searching for the same style amongst completely different content.

Re:College essays (1)

nightgeometry (661444) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529653)

Fair point on plagiarism. The college I do some work for _claims_ to be able to spot when someone else has written your essay for you though. And in fact I thought this did tie into plagiarism - in that the software also aims to identify when writing style changes. Though that was told me by one of their prof's, who whilst not a complete idiot probably was only parroting what he was told.

Re:College essays (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529693)

On 4chan plagiarism is encouraged. It's called a "meme". In fact copy-pasta is a meme in itself.

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Quick... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529573)

Hurry up, someone write a small shell script that maps all AC posts on slashdot to their respective authors!

Stylometric analysis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529673)

I can conclude that Mr Peter "W.H. Smiths, the book store" used the highly efficient MS HTML (in Word et el) converter to write that analyse page.

Identify this: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529705)

It's well known that when god created man, he created man in his own image. Black people are an embodiment of god himself. The devil, seeing how awesome god's creation was, decided to get into the act as well. The devil created white people. A flawed and poor imitation of god's creation, white people suffered horribly until god took pity on them and gave them some semblance of humanity. It's possible for white people to be saved, but it's a long and hard slog; most whites are destined for the hell fires where they will live with their creator forever.

If you want an example of perfection, ask a black man to show you his penis.

...aaand it's circumvented. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529713)

Well, I'll write everything in the style of my enemies from now on then.

time to... (0)

MoreDruid (584251) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529819)

double ROT-13 all my posts from now on!

I Just Love (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42529943)

I just love our wonderful friends, the Thought Police. They save us thoughtless boobs from the evil thought terrorists waging their unholy jihad against us using
weapons of mass thought destruction!
Pass the beer and chips, I think American Idol is on. Oh wait, that can't be right. I can;t think.

Obscurity... (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529959)

Pad all communications with cut/paste from various, unrelated news articles and such, for and aft, randomly alternating how much is padded on each side.

Or, you can do what I do and use a different font for each letter.

Is this really such an issue? (1)

Catmeat (20653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42529975)

Why all the civil-liberties hand-wringing? Just how hard is it to read some of the papers on stylometric analysis to see what markers are used, then write a script that randomises them but preserves the sense of the text. Make it a Firefox plugin so it's done automatically. It's a better solution than using Google translate to go English to $language, $language to English.

For extra fun, change your text so its stylometric markers match up with E. L. James, or the leader writer of the Washington Post.

The answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530073)

is Ebonics!

Schizophreniatrics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530105)

First rule of assuming different identity: become the other personality. Develop different speaking patterns, writing style, habits, diet, associations. Keep seperate from your other life. Method acting to the extreme !

Alternatively look up "project Monarch" to see how the three letter agencies have refined this technique :)

Anonymous shills and astroturfers (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530139)

The climate change community has a lot of trouble with extremely articulate, anonymous climate deniers, who appear to show up in force and sabotage discussions of climate change on blogs, etc.

I should imagine that such an algorithm might enable researchers to build profiles over denialist astroturf, and correlate them with known people working for known rightwing think tanks. Employed properly, this might have a massive impact on the rightwing black PR industry.

I can recon Master Yoda in less than 20 words! (1)

osiaq (2495684) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530155)

No need for 5k

subject (1)

Legion303 (97901) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530167)

This same story keeps cropping up in various forms, but we've been doing this at least since the 80s or 90s. I don't know why it keeps being rehashed or why people continually seem surprised by it at this point.

Not really new (1)

ThePhilips (752041) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530207)

"Up to 80 percent of users who wrote at least 5000 words across their posts could be identified using linguistic techniques. Techniques such as stylometric analysis were used to track users who posted across different forums, and could even be used to unveil authors of thesis papers or blogs who had taken to underground networks."

Not really new. I heard about the techniques long time ago - in mid 90s - in a context of a MS-DOS tool which was unintentionally designed to foil the identification methods.

It was designed for Russian and Belarussian languages (but for English I gather the task should be even easier) and was a byproduct of Prolog-based system for natural language processing and translation. This particular program was allowing to improve or change writing style, e.g. simplify dry legalese or formalize spoken-like text. It wasn't particularly good at it: meaning was occasionally changed or sometimes reformulated sentenced made no sense. But still, it did the job of obfuscating the original writing style.

No actual result in TFA? (3, Interesting)

toutankh (1544253) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530209)

After reading TFA I cannot find any convincing experimental validation. I see a lot of "can" and conditional tense (maybe that's the author's style), but nothing on the validation of the approach. Where is the experimental data, including the number of anonymous users correctly and incorrectly identified on forums?

No they didn't (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530425)

They didn't identify 80% of the users, they managed to make a guess in 80% of the cases, which they didn't even bother to try to verify. There's no proof that their technique actually works.

Easy workaround (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530433)

So now hackers use software that randomizes their writing style. Problem solved. Then problem solved.

Lulzitylulz hardy har (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530489)

Sur jurst wrurte lurke ur furkurn rurturd urnd yur bur furn. Durrrrrrrrrp.

Jokes on them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42530557)

I regularly, like, totally change my typing method between posts.

You could like totally try and figure out who I was even if I typed 5000 words in this post, but you would totally never find me, ye'know what I mean?

But really, this sort of thing is retarded in every way.
You can frame people easily using this crap if you just pick a target and adopt their typing patterns.

Lie Detector (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year and a half ago | (#42530621)

This strikes me as akin to a Lie Detector. I think an honest court would side with the accused 100% of the time as even this cannot absolutely proove they were the author.

Though sadly, a Roberts/Scalia/Thomas Supreme Court would rule against such an individual and for the corporation or state security organs. Dicks.
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