Launched at the Black Hat 211 security conference and released on Usenet, Offline Windows Analysis and Data Extraction (OWADE) is capable of unlocking files indicating the web history of computers that are operating on Windows.
Elie Bursztein’s team at Stanford University developed the software, which he says will allow authorities working cases involving pedophiles to better track their online and social media activities, allowing them to match a certain suspect to an online identity or alias. Police have access to hard drives, but previously were unable to match online aliases to certain suspects and were unable to access their accounts. “Now, law enforcement organizations can extract information from websites like Facebook to find out,” Bursztein said. “We’ve built a tool that can reconstruct where the user has been online, and what identity they used.”
The technology works by unlocking Microsoft’s encryption, as a great deal of data such as browsing history, site logins and passwords are protected using an algorithm that generates an encryption key. Bursztein and his team figured out how the system works last year, leading to their being the only team in the world able to decrypt this data. They have now decided to make this public.
Of course, with the information made public, those with ill intents may use the information to hide their activity. “If somebody knows what they’re doing with their data, they will try and hide it and work around [solutions like this] as much as they can,” said John Haggerty of the University of Salford, UK according to NewScientist.com.
Usenet has been a platform that many innovators have used to announce their projects and breakthroughs. Through technology newsgroups, many technologically savvy individuals continue to share ideas and information to this day, just as they have for decades on Usenet, which preceded the World Wide Web and was an early way for people to communicate.