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Researchers Can ID Anonymous Email Senders

benjamin fung

Benjamin Fung, Professor of Information Systems Engineering. Credit: Concordia University

Not surprisingly, anonymous emails have been used by cyber-criminals in many instances. In the past, it was not always easy to identify the machines used to send the emails, let alone the actual individual who was responsible. But Benjamin Fung and his teammates  at Concordia University can identify anonymous email senders with a 80%-90% accuracy. How? They do that by finding unique patterns from the style, grammar and even spelling, that would point to a particular person. They call that a White Print, and they say that this white print can even tell them about the age, gender and education of the person who wrote those emails.

To put their idea to the test, they have analyzed 200000 emails from the Enron case. Searching emails from 10 subjects for which they had email samples, they have been able to establish an authorship relation with a 80%-90% success. This is enough to be used in a court. We wonder if criminals could work around this by writing everything in upper-case, or using a software to alter their style – but that’s probably more work than what most cyber-criminals might care for.

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