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Student Uncovers US Military Secrets

CmdrTaco posted more than 10 years ago | from the magic-market-don't-cut-it-no-more dept.

Encryption 484

karthik_r085 writes "According to The Register, An Irish graduate student has uncovered words blacked-out of declassified US military documents using nothing more than a dictionary and text analysis software. Claire Whelan, a computer science student at Dublin City University was given the problems by her PhD supervisor as a diversion. David Naccache, a cryptographer with Gemplus, challenged her to discover the words missing from two documents: one was a memo to George Bush, and another concerned military modifications to civilian helicopters."

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YO (0, Troll)

Shazzman (656506) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167256)

Let's keep posts on topic and avoid any comments others might find offensive.

Thanks.

helo (1)

penis fish (671987) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167257)

i have a FISH on my PENIS!!

HeLPP!!!! PLZZ! help EM !!!

fucking micks are all a bunch of terrorist scum (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167258)

we oughta bomb them back to the fucking stone age!

Re:fucking micks are all a bunch of terrorist scum (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167272)

What do you back "back to"????

no comments (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167260)

hmmm...

WMD!! (5, Funny)

AmigaAvenger (210519) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167261)

Oh OH, i can see it coming already, text analysis and dictionary software declared as Weapons of Mass Destruction! That, and Ireland is going to become the next member of the "axis of evil"

Re:WMD!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167440)

Wasn't it already? Certainly it harbours known terrorists who have killed vast numbers of people. Oh, but some Americans think they are "irish" so its OK to go around killing English people. Hoho, really funny asshat.

Re:WMD!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167549)

*sighs*

Re:WMD!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167508)

Don't you mean weapons of mass deconstruction?

hmmm (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167262)

Yeah, but the memos are pointless anyway - diversionary tactics designd to keep crims at bay.

Also, the Irish are gay.

Whoah O_O (-1, Offtopic)

Moth7 (699815) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167264)

New story before I can even finish reading TLastFA O_O Note to editors - post more 28 page PDFs, you'll get less FPs ;)

Re:Whoah O_O (2, Insightful)

ilovegroupthink (776107) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167476)

As if that would work, only 1 in 10 RTFA to begin with.

Ingenious... (4, Interesting)

Denyer (717613) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167266)

"The first task is to identify the font, and font size the missing word was written in. Once that is done, the dictionary search begins for words that fit the space, plus or minus three pixels"

This is why I don't work for an intelligence agency. On the other hand, I'm still probably better qualified than people who think blacking out a few words in a document strips them of contextual information...

Re:Ingenious... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167410)

Personally I'm surprised they would just XXXX out the sensitive words instead of just deleting them in an electronic document without trace.

I mean, any informed person could probably figure out what words were there without a computer if they just put X's over the suspect characters. I mean, it's like filling out a crossword puzzle.

XXXX you, and such. I bet you had NO idea what I was saying there.

Re:Ingenious... (1)

JPriest (547211) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167526)

Thanks, now nobody has to read the article.

Re:Ingenious... (5, Interesting)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167568)

This is why I don't work for an intelligence agency

how righteous of you. in fact, if you look and know a little about intelligence analysis techniques, i think you'll find that the NSA already know about this approach for 'interpreting' typewritten redacts, even as far back as the 50's.

what this story really seems to point out is the naivete of a lot of people about computers, and the powerful simplicity to seemingly difficult problems that they offer ... the average consumer.

it wasn't so long ago that the idea of having massive dictionaries in ram and font and calculations on this order to make a practical approach was considered relatively 'resource difficult'.

but moores laws and fry's electronics has certainly changed that.

for the price of a nice night out, i could buy an extra computer for brute-force hacks against any target, stick it in my closet and forget about it. used to be, not so long ago you had to have a halon system and power room to do things like that ...

Homepage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167267)

Claire Whelan's personal homepage [computing.dcu.ie] with more info

-1 Slashdotted / Removed (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167342)

It's dead Jim.

Re:-1 Slashdotted / Removed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167408)

anyone got mirrors?

Re:Homepage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167430)

slashdotted already :( mirrors?!

So if this is true (0, Flamebait)

Zorak Man (732141) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167268)

What this means, is the Government messed up? No way.. thats impossible

Well? (1)

ckeck (762017) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167270)

What did the documents reveal??? What kind of news is this?!?

Re:Well? (4, Interesting)

k98sven (324383) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167443)

What did the documents reveal??

I think you'd be surprized how much irrelevant 'intelligence' ends up classified. Often, it's stuff which is already public (although not always general) knowledge but which the administration wants to deny.
A lot of ass-covering, basically.

But it gets even stranger. For instance the case of the de-classified CIA documents [gwu.edu] relating to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. (Whups, now there's a piece of flamebait..)

Anyway, a bunch of these documents have been re-classified by the current administration, apparently to hide such disturbing secrets like what Señor Pinochet's favorite drink was. (Scotch)

Re:Well? (3, Informative)

TexasDex (709519) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167617)

I found this on Yahoo News a while ago: WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Central Intelligence Agency (news - web sites) classified as "secret" and withheld from public dissemination for nearly 29 years a prank terrorist threat against Santa Claus, according to documents released.

The threat -- purported to come from a then- and still-unknown group calling itself the "Group of the Martyr Ebenezer Scrooge" -- was contained in a classified compilation of intelligence on possible terrorist attacks produced by the CIA (news - web sites) in late 1974, according to the documents.

"A new organization of uncertain makeup using the name 'Group of the Martyr Ebenezer Scrooge' plans to sabotage the annual courier flight of the Government of the North Pole," the CIA said in its December 17, 1974 "Weekly Situation Report on International Terrorism."

"Prime Minister and Chief Courier S. Claus has been notified and security precautions are being coordinated worldwide by the CCCT working group," it said, identifying the night of December 24-25, 1974 as the date for the planned "sabotage."

It was not clear whether the CIA had learned of a prank threat to Santa, or if the analysts compiling the report had inserted it as a holiday joke.

Along with the threat to Santa, the situation report included deadly serious incidents and warnings including intelligence detailing potential terrorist attacks in the Middle East, possible bombs at the British embassy in Buenos Aires and a plane hijacking.

Despite the dubious nature of the threat to Father Christmas, the CIA blacked out all references to it when the situation report was declassified in 1999, according to the documents.

The documents, which include the original report as well as the redacted version released to the public in 1999, were released by the National Security Archive as part of its campaign against the "overclassification" of government files.

"The CIAs secret Santa leads the archives lengthy compilation of declassified documents that illustrate the arbitrary and capricious decision making that all too often characterizes the US governments national security secrecy system," it said in a statement.

The National Security Archive, part of the George Washington University in the US capital, is a private research group that seeks the declassification of government documents through the Freedom of Information Act for historical purposes.

Damn! (0, Offtopic)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167271)

Damn! I was hoping for downloads.

Re: Damn! (0, Troll)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167378)


> Damn! I was hoping for downloads.

You can download the blackspace from the usual goatse site.

The one to Bush.... (5, Funny)

Pranjal (624521) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167273)

...said
"Please please please let the army attack Iraq"

Apparently the word that was blacked out was please.

Re:The one to Bush.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167297)

"Please please please let the army attack Iraq"

Apparently the word that was blacked out was please.


Are you sure the word wasn't "pretty"?

Re:The one to Bush.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167469)

No, more like:

Lets attack Iraq under the false presumption of removing an "evil tyrant". Do lots of damage with the idea of select contracts for rebuilding going to companies owned by friends. Install puppet government to ensure oil contracts only go to friends. Toy with getting christianity into country just to give our conservative bible thumping base of voters something to cheer about. Let G.I.s drive around in unarmored vechiles with idea that destroyed vechiles will need replaced by company that is friendly. Blame democrats for not giving enough funding to buy better vechiles. Claim "resolve" and other stupid terms that Rove digs out of his bible in every speech.

good for her (2, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167277)

Pretty funny, but luckily she's from Ireland. If an American did this they'd probably receive a visit from some intelligence goons in short order.

Re:good for her (1)

y2imm (700704) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167312)

The way the US has been operating lately, I wouldn't dismiss that as an option just yet.

If that's all.. (2, Insightful)

hot_Karls_bad_cavern (759797) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167338)

Damn, with our nation in the state it is today? She'd be goddamn lucky to get ONLY a visit. Sad but true :(

Re:good for her (4, Interesting)

iabervon (1971) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167385)

I suspect there would be a 50/50 chance that the visit from the intelligence goons would be a job offer. US intelligence sorely needs people who can read between the lines and actually come up with correct answers.

Re:good for her (2, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167462)

I don't know about that. They do need people like that, but I think they might not know they need people like that.

Re:good for her (1)

nkh (750837) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167421)

Oh, you mean "intelligence" is the new american word for "killer"?

Area 51! (0, Troll)

imidazole2 (776413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167280)

Must... Uncover... Words!

What happens to here research? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167291)

Can gov stop her research on National Security grounds.

An example of the program in use.

G.W Bush is the ____________ of the United States of America.

After the program

G.W Bush is the idiot of the United States of America.

Re: What happens to here research? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167360)


> Can gov stop her research on National Security grounds.

If not, they can always invoke the DMCA.

*her* research may be stopped (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167471)

But most likely the resulting outcome will be that fewer documents are released. Or the pages will be so blackened that they will be unreadable.

And yes I can make fun of your typos.. nothing better then the kettle calling one black...

obvious solution (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167292)

Obviously, the next step the government will take is to require all documents be written in fixed-width fonts. Either that or they will require that all documents be converted into fixed-width before they are released for FFIA inquiries.

Don't see how this is a big threat.

Re:obvious solution (4, Insightful)

zhenlin (722930) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167332)

Variable width fonts makes this easier. Or not.
'iiii' probably has the same width as 'MM' in some variable width fonts.

On the other hand, fixed width fonts allows calculation of the exact amount of letters to fit in.

In any case, the 'official' font of the US Government was Courier New 12 for quite some time.

re: obvious solution (2, Interesting)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167391)

require all documents be written in fixed-width fonts

That's no solution at all. You can still determine the word based on the context and the character count. It's just that the pool of possible solutions will be a little bigger.

Re:obvious solution (5, Insightful)

Feanturi (99866) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167405)

Wouldn't fixed-width just make it easier to figure out how many letters were in the missing words?

Re:obvious solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167452)

As a matter of fact it would. It would be exactly like a Crossword puzzle then. At least before you had to analyze the font to make the fit. The suggestion for fixed-width fonts is really just... stupid. Do they even know what that means?

What they need to do is simply replace all sensitive data with a special character like a % or a ~ so they're all only 1 character long and release electronic copies of the documents.

Re:obvious solution (4, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167517)

Yes. But knowing 5 letters are in a word doesn't narrow it down nearly as much as knowing the word is 46 pixels long.

Re:obvious solution (1)

gellenburg (61212) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167539)

That's the point. :-)

Parent is confused (3, Informative)

moronga (323123) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167500)

A fixed-width font (like courier) uses the same width for all characters. A document printed in a fixed-width font would make the process easier, because you would know with certainty how many letters fit into a black box.

If you read the article, the seven words that were found to be a possible fit range from seven to ten characters, implying that the document was printed in a variable width font.

Re:obvious solution (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167639)

Obviously, the next step the government will take is to require all documents be written in fixed-width fonts.

As somebody pointed out, that still makes it possible to count missing characters. I suspect that in the future they will have to release an electronic version with a pre-determined number of X's in it. Let's hope they don't use Word format with hidden sections in it that they forget to remove, like the govmt has done in the past.

Another alternative is to edit the image so that a covered word ends the line, and then make the covered part a predetermined length. For example if the original is:

"Iraq got missle info from XXXXX before noon"

They could chop an image of that section such that it looks like:

"Iraq got missle info from XXXXXXXXX
before noon"

The line-break gives the censorer space to pad the blacked-out part. It might make the document image longer per page than the original, but at least they don't have to reformat and re-wrap the entire image or page text.

(I am patenting this "business method" so that the CIA has to pay me to use it :-)

Re:obvious solution (1)

quantaman (517394) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167640)

You mean like Courier New 12 [slashdot.org] :)
Guess that change wasn't such abright idea after all!

wake-up call (1)

Coneasfast (690509) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167296)

The first task is to identify the font, and font size the missing word was written in. Once that is done, the dictionary search begins for words that fit the space, plus or minus three pixels

hmm, maybe this is wakeup call for govt. to maybe use a variable font size and spacing in classified documents. not sure how often they use 'blacking out' though.

Re:wake-up call (4, Interesting)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167336)

The other way to get around this problem would be to do the blackouts against a digital version of the document, so that the words are all replaced with blocks of equal size without revealing any information about how long the oriignal words were.

Re:wake-up call (1)

senatorpjt (709879) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167351)

The entire point was that due to the variable font sizes, there is a smaller number of words that can fit exactly in the given space. If it were fixed-width font, it could be any n-letter word.

Although, I would think that this method requires the blacking out to begin and end exactly at the edge of the blacked-out word. I think this is rarely the case. This was done within "three pixels" according to the article, and I have to believe there's more variance than that for the government stooge with a black Sharpie that's going over these things.

Re:wake-up call (1)

Tony-A (29931) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167432)

Although, I would think that this method requires the blacking out to begin and end exactly at the edge of the blacked-out word

plain-text-1 white-space-1 blacked-out-text white space-2 plain-text-2
Measure from the end of plain-text-1 to the start of plain-text-2.
This includes exactly two white-spaces plus the blacked-out-text.
It doesn't matter how accurate the black Sharpie is.

Re:wake-up call (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167367)

not sure how often they use 'blacking out' though.

with how little this administration seems to acknowledge or remember, it seems that they "black out" far too often...

Re:wake-up call (2, Funny)

b!arg (622192) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167446)

Before they release it they should convert the blacked out parts to 1337 speak...

Re:wake-up call (3, Funny)

Jon Kent (777707) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167468)

MEMORANDUM TO ALL EMPLOYEES OF THE DHS AND US INTELLIGENCE SERVICES:

So as to counter the terrorists' latest methods for conducting espionage against our great nation, all official documents will now be composed in a combination of Wingdings 3 [identifont.com] and MS Comic Sans [help4web.net] .

Sincerely, The Management

wow (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167298)

Incredable. 'News' from Ireland.

This just in: potatos taste like shit.

What about this: (1)

BibelBiber (557179) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167301)

Maybe the government didn't know any names either and just made it look like something blotted out? Let other people try to find out :-)

old news (4, Informative)

Swen Swen (778337) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167306)

The Monde (famous French newspaper) published an article [lemonde.fr] on the story a few days ago. An English translation can be found here [infosecwest.com] .

Re:old news (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167348)

Isn't calling it "The Monde" like calling USA Today "Etats-Unis Today," it is inappropriate to translate the title of a newspaper like that. Call it by its real name "Le Monde," which of course means "The World." But "The World" is not the title of the newspaper.

It's to be expected.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167310)

I always thought that blacking out text was a pretty useless form of security. There's going to be some difference in contrast, even after making a xerox of the original....

Recalls to mind this book that was published by someone who had to get it approved through the military -- they blacked out a bunch of it. He published it like how he got it back: with lots of black stripes.

No real Secrets were harmed... (5, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167316)

The student didn't actually solve for any real US secrets, because the documents she was using were already declassified. However, as an academic exercise this demonstrates that there's still information being conveyed in the typical black-out way of "redacting" certain words from documents.

And, since the information was known, we're sure that she did come up with the correct solutions.

Re:No real Secrets were harmed... (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167373)

Did anyone honestly believe that blacking out certain words was a reliable method of withholding names or information? I think it is usually just done to discourage the discovery of such things, but not with the thought that it is 100% secure. Even the human eye can often figure out what was blacked out.

big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167322)

i don't see this as a huge deal. this is like a digital mad lib book.

"so n so gave information to XXXXXXXXX agency".

besides, the real good documents are the ones with paragraphs missing, not simple words.

Quoth the article... (1)

Three Headed Man (765841) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167330)

the most important conclusion of this work "is that censoring text by blotting out words and re-scanning is not a secure practice".

This means they should revert to the old "Blacking out the PDF's" method, because that worked better.

How ironic! (0)

debilo (612116) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167333)

Then, the text anaysis routine checks for words that would make sense in English.

Maybe the routine could do checks for The Register too!

Perfect. (3, Insightful)

NegativeK (547688) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167346)

This is a classic example of security through obscurity.. And how it fails miserably.

Re:Perfect. (1)

penis fish (671987) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167393)

Let me congratulate you, karma whore. You suck gigantic cock and enjoy the phallus in your every orafice. Die a rechid and painful death.

PS: PLS HELP GET FISH OFF PENIS !!!!!!!!!! HURTTTTTTTTT

Re:Perfect. (1)

js3 (319268) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167395)

huh? are you saying the words should have been blackened out at all? security through obscurity would be not declassifing the document in the first place!

Re:Perfect. (1)

MoneyT (548795) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167562)

Er... that's nothing close to security through obscurity. It's just crappy security.

This headline is a bit hyperbolic (0, Flamebait)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167353)

Slashdot, this is yellow journalism.

Anyway this technique is easily foiled; just produce a document with randomly increased or shrink Blacked out boxes; or just subsitute all blacked out phrases with "***". Even if it's a photostat you can photoshop it.

I"m not impressed.

Re:This headline is a bit hyperbolic (1)

Bronster (13157) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167409)

Anyway this technique is easily foiled; just produce a document with randomly increased or shrink Blacked out boxes; or just subsitute all blacked out phrases with "***". Even if it's a photostat you can photoshop it.

So speaks some clueless twonk who didn't think through the technique at all. If it's a photostat then it will have all the text positioned based on the exact width of the word you want to hide - blacking out the word, no matter how much black you put on either side (even if it's right up to the next word) won't change the fact that the width between the end of the word before and the start of the word afterwards is exactly that which would be created by having one particular word in between.

Sheesh.

If you're doing the blacked out boxes electronically before printing, then sure, just replace all the words to be removed with *****, exactly the same width, nothing to analyse. Even black out multiple words with one blocker. Easy.

This technique only works if the blacked out word _is_ the original, but it's a damn good idea, and a fine example of side-channel analysis.

Re:This headline is a bit hyperbolic (2, Interesting)

Ctrl-Z (28806) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167470)

But one thing to consider is whether redaction software does this at present. I don't believe that there is any such software. This story is informative in that it reveals that current redaction techniques may be inadequate.

Re:This headline is a bit hyperbolic (2, Interesting)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167567)

Student Uncovers Military Secrets

What's wrong with that headline? She is a PhD student, she was able to deduce what properly lay under the black marks, and the uncovered material was classified, probably at a fairly high level.

...obligatory Irish joke... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167358)

"While driving, an Englishman and an Irishman crash into each other on a dark night. Amazingly, neither is hurt. The Irishman opens a bottle of whiskey and hands it to the Englishman. "May the English and Irish live side by side forever," says the Englishman. He drinks a big gulp, then hands the bottle to the Irishman. "No tanks," says the Irishman. "I'll wait until after the police get here."

Re:...obligatory Irish joke... (2, Funny)

Prod_Deity (686460) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167453)

I personally think she discovered it while her computer was infected with the Irish Virus [symantec.com]

Re:...obligatory Irish joke... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167570)

I always found this one funny, given that Ireland is the second largest exporter of software in the world, and has been for several years.

Text message lingo (5, Funny)

doria13 (779114) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167370)

Perhaps the US government should start using text message lingo in their memos.

"An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an Egyptian srvic @ d sAm tym dat bn l@n wz plnin 2 exploit d operatives acces 2 d us 2 mount a terrorist strike"*

Could make decoding sensitive documents much more difficult and at the same time provide jobs for teenage cryptologists.

*lingo courtesy of transl8it.com [transl8it.com]

Re:Text message lingo (4, Funny)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167480)

Nah, I think the US gov should employ more people who can barely write. Misspelled words won't match the word lenght of the correctly spelled word. Using creative grammar would make it harder to find the right word type. And random punctuation would make it harder to find seperate sentences.
Combined we get security through ignorance.

Re: Text message lingo (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167538)


> Perhaps the US government should start using text message lingo in their memos.

No, 'cause then you get problems with messages like -

1nv4d3 743 c0un7r135
when you only wanted to invade two.

Re:Text message lingo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167544)

The .Gov has to prove its is the real document, if to much was garbled, people would assume it fake. Of course bush could have released a fake version of the memo and no one would know.

Couldn't one just.... (4, Interesting)

RoTNCoRE (744518) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167377)

Change the length of the blacked out portion to some standard generic length to avoid disclosing the word length? Then you could only use context.

Or if you wanted to be really sneaky, randomize the length of the blacked out box, to spur wild goose chases.

Re:Couldn't one just.... (1)

B1ackDragon (543470) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167509)

Yeah, but that would mean retyping all of the documents... this is another of the side affects of running a Dead Tree Tyranny [reason.com]

To be honest, I have no idea how many current documents are kept primarily in electronic form (making a simple text replacement possible), but I doubt its very many.

Re:Couldn't one just.... (1)

ProppaT (557551) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167578)

Actually, it wouldn't. More and more of the government sector is going towards standardized SGML documentation. In fact, many important documents that are being created in word are being converted to SGML for documentation purposes. So, in fact, it would take nothing more than a few extra tags for sensitive information.

Paper? (1)

eddy (18759) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167392)

Anyone know if there's a paper on this? This news came up on another site a couple of days ago, but they didn't even mention the researchers name, only implied it was presented at EuroCrypt'2004 [ibm.com] in Switzerland. I looked though the list of accepted papers, but nothing stood out.

A search on IACR will give a single hit [iacr.org] on the author, but it isn't this report/paper/work.

Other Secrets (3, Funny)

clonan (64380) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167420)

So...can they now tell us how REALLY killed Kennedy?

Re:Other Secrets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167616)

So...can they now tell us how REALLY killed Kennedy?

Here I was always thinking it was a bullet to the head...

Number one redaction (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167448)

Nuculer.

Dictionary-based approaches seem to miss this one for some reason.

More examples (4, Interesting)

broothal (186066) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167449)

If people knew how easy it was to "break" simple means of protection, we'd see far less in the media.

If you film a person in backlight, his face will be dark when you see him on tv. Cranking up the contrast (in most cases, just the contrast on the tv will do) shows the face clearly.

If you pixelize the face of a person, he's not recognizeable. But unless he stands completely still, his movements will give enough info to calculate the originating pixels after a couple of minutes.

If you apply a standard mixer filter to a persons voice, it sounds dark and unrecognizeable... Until you run the reverse algorithm.

If you black out sentences with a marker, it's often just a question of holding the paper up agains the light to read it.

I never understood this behaviour anyway. Why show a person on TV that obvoiously not want to be recoznized (however carefully concealed by the production)?

As for documents - I'm pretty sure most documents are available electronically. Why not just delete the stuff you don't want people to see?

Re:More examples (1)

Rostin (691447) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167516)

Not hard to understand. TV is 100% entertainment (yes, even the evening news). Watching a fuzzed out image of someone with a messed up voice is very dramatic.. "Look what lengths they've gone to to protect the indentity of this person.. what he's saying must be very juicy.."

Re:More examples (1)

nordicfrost (118437) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167602)

Why show a person on TV that obvoiously not want to be recoznized (however carefully concealed by the production)?


That one is easy. It is always better to display the subejct of the story, like the raped in a rape case etc. than to obectify them. The story becomes more interesting and draws a larger crowd. It is also a part of the evidence chain, like interviewing a witness or other part. The viewer get closer to the story, even though i is just a large blob with a strange voice.

secrets indeed (3, Interesting)

trs9000 (73898) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167484)

quote of memo to bush from the article:
"An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an XXXXXXXX service at the same time that Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative's access to the US to mount a terrorist strike."
and from the article itself:
"This eliminated all but seven words: Ugandan, Ukrainian, Egyptian, uninvited, incursive, indebted and unofficial. Naccache plumped for Egyptian, in this case."

AH-HAH!
so an egyptian operative told an *egyptian* service....
man this is some tricky work! uncovering covert secrets for sure!

seriously though the technique is pretty awesome

there's a lot of redacted FOIA documents... (2, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167488)

.. already out there now. Like I'd like to see a lot of the Black Vault's thousands of documents translated, just for one interesting example, one of many. woo hoo this is cool!

Magic Market??? (1)

gibbdog (551209) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167520)

the story is brought to us by the "magic-market-don't-cut-it-no-more dept"

Wouldn't it make more sense for it to be from the "magic-marker-don't-cut-it-no-more dept"?

And what if.. (3, Insightful)

EdMcMan (70171) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167522)

What if the blacked out word is not in the dictionary? Most of these blacked out things are very likely names or places, things that could not be so easily brainstormed or listed.

He had some help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167532)

from those green Irish leprecons!

What would have been funnier... (2, Funny)

Black Rabbit (236299) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167556)

...would have been if the censored bits were revealed by running the document through the spelling and grammar check in Word!

Impressed (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167563)

Wow, that is XXXXXXX amazing!

Wonderful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9167599)

Now they will just start blacking out ten times the text before declassifying anything.

----- Post! (2, Funny)

jdkane (588293) | more than 10 years ago | (#9167605)

they won't know to mod this down
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