Dusting for Cyber Fingerprints: Coding Style Identifies Anonymous Programmers

February 27, 2015

A team of computer scientists, led by researchers from Drexel University’s College of Computing & Informatics, have devised as way to lift the veil of anonymity protecting cyber criminals by turning their malicious code against them. Their method uses a parsing program to break down lines of code, like an English teacher diagramming a sentence, and then another program captures distinctive patterns that can be used to identify its author.

“Just like writers and artists, every coder has a unique style all their own,” said Aylin Caliskan-Islam, a doctoral student at Drexel who developed the system and is the lead author of a recently posted technical report about it. “Our process distils the most important characteristics of a programmer’s style — which is the first step toward identifying anonymous authors, tracking cyber criminals and settling intellectual property questions.”

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