Feeds

Network sniffing algorithm could have fingered 9/11 suspects

Can spot who's talking about you on Facebook, too

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

A group of researchers has come up with a new algorithm that they say can be used to snoop information networks to trace rumor leaks, locate the source of disease epidemics, and even potentially stop terror attacks.

According to Pedro Pinto and colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), the new technique can be used to trace the source of information within large-scale network systems given only very few data points.

"Using our method, we can find the source of all kinds of things circulating in a network just by 'listening' to a limited number of members of that network," Pinto explains in a press release.

The basic idea is to choose a few well-connected nodes on a network and use the time it takes a piece of information to reach each of those nodes to triangulate the information's source.

The research, which was published in the journal Physical Review Letters last Friday, is based on principles used by wireless carriers to pinpoint mobile phone users, but the boffins say it can be applied to a wide variety of networks, including online social networks or even real-world networks of people in villages and towns.

For example, the researchers applied the technique to data gathered from cholera outbreak that occurred in South Africa in 2000. After building a detailed model of the network of roads and waterways that could have spread the disease from village to village, Pinto and his team were able to use the new algorithm to locate the source of the epidemic with 90 per cent confidence, using data from just 5 per cent of the network nodes.

In another test, the boffins built a computer simulation of the telephone calls that could have occurred during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

"By reconstructing the message exchange inside the 9/11 terrorist network extracted from publicly released news, our system spit out the names of three potential suspects," Pinto says, "one of whom was found to be the mastermind of the attacks, according to the official enquiry."

If those use cases aren't juicy enough for you, the EPFL eggheads say the new technique could potentially have a wide variety of other applications, including tracing the origin of spam and computer viruses, or finding the sources of Facebook rumors.

And then there's always the old fallback: "It could also be a valuable tool for advertisers who use viral marketing strategies," the EPFL's press release helpfully points out. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
Another step forward for diamond-based quantum computers
Square cut or pear-shaped, these qubits don't lose their shape
LOHAN acquires aircraft arboreal avoidance algorithm acronyms
Is that an ARMADILLO in your PANTS or are you just pleased to see me?
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.