Readers may be aware that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is sponsoring what it calls the 'Shredder Challenge'.
Today’s troops often confiscate the remnants of destroyed documents in war zones, but reconstructing them is a daunting task. DARPA’s Shredder Challenge calls upon computer scientists, puzzle enthusiasts and anyone else who likes solving complex problems to compete for up to $50,000 by piecing together a series of shredded documents.
The goal is to identify and assess potential capabilities that could be used by our warfighters operating in war zones, but might also create vulnerabilities to sensitive information that is protected through our own shredding practices throughout the U.S. national security community.
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The Shredder Challenge is comprised of five separate puzzles in which the number of documents, the document subject matter and the method of shredding will be varied to present challenges of increasing difficulty. To complete each problem, participants must provide the answer to a puzzle embedded in the content of the reconstructed document.
There's more at the link.
According to DARPA, there are more than 8,200 registered participants, and the challenge's puzzles have been downloaded more than 72,000 times. It looks like at least one team is getting very close, too, judging by this 'tweet' from the project two days ago:
I'll be watching with interest to see who wins, and how well they do . . . but I'm also puzzled. Germany seems to have sorted out this problem some time ago. I wrote about it in March 2010, in connection with the reconstruction of shredded Stasi files. So, is a German team winning DARPA's challenge? Or has a US team 'borrowed' the German technology? Or has someone - or a team of someones - developed a new, alternative technology to do the same thing? Inquiring minds want to know!
Meanwhile, in case they get this right, I daresay it's time for me to invest in a burn barrel for the back yard, and incinerate my shredded documents in it . . .