Post Process

Everything to do with E-discovery & ESI

This post will self-destruct in 5…4…3…

Posted by rjbiii on July 22, 2009

If you’re hearing the Mission Impossible theme, then we are on the same page. Science Daily has an article discussing a method allowing content to expire and self destruct. Developed by University of Washington computer scientists, the technology would make it so that even the content’s original sender couldn’t retrieve the data beyond the “expiration date.” Why do this?

“If you care about privacy, the Internet today is a very scary place,” said UW computer scientist Tadayoshi Kohno. “If people understood the implications of where and how their e-mail is stored, they might be more careful or not use it as often.”

Nothing there a surprise to people in this industry. How does it work?

The Vanish prototype washes away data using the natural turnover, called “churn,” on large file-sharing systems known as peer-to-peer networks. For each message that it sends, Vanish creates a secret key, which it never reveals to the user, and then encrypts the message with that key. It then divides the key into dozens of pieces and sprinkles those pieces on random computers that belong to worldwide file-sharing networks, the same ones often used to share music or movie files. The file-sharing system constantly changes as computers join or leave the network, meaning that over time parts of the key become permanently inaccessible. Once enough key parts are lost, the original message can no longer be deciphered.

[…]

Unlike existing commercial encryption services, a message sent using Vanish is kept private by an inherent property of the decentralized file-sharing networks it uses.

A big advantage to the system, is that the user has no need to trust an administrator or service provider. The system takes personal action and discretion out of the equation.

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