COMMUNICATIONS EMAILS


New technique developed

to identify authors of anonymous emails

By Darren Quick

21:58 March 8, 2011

Concordia University professor, Benjamin Fung, has developed an effective new technique to...

Concordia University professor, Benjamin Fung, has developed an effective new technique to determine the authorship of anonymous emails (Image: Concordia University)

There might be many harmless reasons for sending anonymous emails – confessing your undying love for someone, seeking anonymous advice, or simply playing a joke on a friend – but there are also plenty of harmful reasons – making threats against someone, distributing child pornography or sending viruses, just to name a few. While police can often use the IP address to locate where an email originated, it may be harder to nail down exactly who sent it. A team of researchers claims to have developed an effective new technique to determine the authorship of anonymous emails that can provide presentable evidence in courts of law.

In an attempt to combat the increase of cybercrimes involving anonymous emails, Benjamin Fung, a professor of Information Systems Engineering at Quebec’sConcordia University and an expert in data mining, and his colleagues set about developing a novel method of authorship attribution based on techniques used in speech recognition and data mining, which involves extracting useful, previously unknown knowledge from a large volume of raw data. Their approach relies on identifying frequent patterns and unique combinations of features that recur in a suspect’s emails.

The technique works by first identifying the patterns found in emails written by the subject. Any of these patterns which are also found in the emails of other subjects are then filtered out, leaving patterns that are unique to the author of the emails being analyzed. These remaining frequent patterns then constitute what the researchers call the suspect’s ‘write-print’ – a distinctive identifier akin to a fingerprint.

“Let’s say the anonymous email contains typos or grammatical mistakes, or is written entirely in lowercase letters,” says Fung. “We use those special characteristics to create a write-print. Using this method, we can even determine with a high degree of accuracy who wrote a given email, and infer the gender, nationality and education level of the author.”

Fung and his colleagues tested their technique by examining the Enron Email Dataset – a collection containing over 200,000 real-life emails from 158 employees of the Enron Corporation. Using a sample of 10 emails written by each of 10 subjects – 100 emails in all – they were able to identify authorship with an accuracy of 80 to 90 percent.

“Our technique was designed to provide credible evidence that can be presented in a court of law,” says Fung. “For evidence to be admissible, investigators need to explain how they have reached their conclusions. Our method allows them to do this.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

NBN costs Australian taxpayers

24 times South Korea at one tenth

the speed: report says @ $40billion

February 9, 2011 – 2:29PM
Speed, coverage and public-funding comparison (per covered household).Speed, coverage and public-funding comparison (per covered household). Photo: ECU

Australia’s national broadband network will cost taxpayers 24 times as much as South Korea’s but deliver services at just one-tenth the speed, new research claims.

The opposition claimed the research vindicated its position that the NBN was a waste of public funds, while the government countered that comparing Australia to South Korea was “like comparing apples to oranges”.

The research from the Economist Intelligence Unit published today shows Australia is spending an estimated 7.6 per cent of annual government budget revenues on its broadband network.

“In South Korea, by comparison, the government is spending less than 1 per cent of annual budget revenues to realise its broadband goals, achieving targets by encouraging the private sector to invest in the country’s broadband future,” the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a statement.

However, the EIU report does not mention NBN Co’sannouncement last year that its network will also be capable of the same speeds as South Korea’s network. Shortly before the federal election, chief executive Mike Quigley announced the fibre network would be built to carry speeds of 1 gigabit per second in a bid to differentiate the project from the opposition’s broadband policy.

The opposition seized on the report, with its communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull saying that the Economist Intelligence Unit had “joined the long list of expert observers, both international and local, who are utterly dismayed by the reckless spending of the Gillard government on the NBN”.

“The study confirms, yet again, that this NBN project should be the subject of a rigorous cost benefit analysis by the Productivity Commission.”

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s spokeswoman said comparing Australia to Korea was “like comparing apples to oranges”.

“Investment in Australia’s road, rail, telecommunications and utility infrastructure faces vastly different factors than countries such as South Korea,” the spokeswoman said.

“We know that with Australia’s population density, there aren’t the incentives for the private sector to provide the universal high quality broadband infrastructure that all Australians need.”

Conroy’s spokeswoman also noted that Australia’s land mass was “over 7.6 million square kilometres compared with South Korea’s which is just over 100,000 square kilometres” and that Australia had a population density of “2.7 people per sq km compared with 487 people per sq km for South Korea”.

The report also claimed that while Australia’s network scored highly for setting an original target speed of 100Mbps, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and France planned to achieve similar targets with much lower public-sector funding.

The study reviewed more than 40 national government plans for broadband development. Australia scored 3.4 out of five on the index. It punished Australia for the “huge cost to the public sector of its broadband scheme”.

Other factors that worked against Australia were “limited private-sector involvement, heavy central-government intervention and the exclusion of state and municipal authorities from its plan”, the Economist Intelligence Unit said.

smh.com.au

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


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