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Hackers constantly improve at penetrating cyber defenses to steal valuable documents. So some researchers propose using an artificial-intelligence algorithm to hopelessly confuse them, once they break-in, by hiding the real deal amid a mountain of convincing fakes.

The algorithm, called Word Embedding–based Fake Online Repository Generation Engine (WE-FORGE), generates decoys of patents under development. But someday it could “create a lot of fake versions of every document that a company feels it needs to guard,” says its developer, Dartmouth College cybersecurity researcher V. S. Subrahmanian.

If hackers were after, say, the formula for a new drug, they would have to find the relevant needle in a haystack of fakes. This could mean checking each formula in detail—and perhaps investing in a few dead-end recipes. “The name of the game here is, ‘Make it harder,’” Subrahmanian explains. “‘Inflict pain on those stealing from you.’”

Subrahmanian says he tackled this project after reading that companies are unaware of new kinds of cyberattacks for an average of 312 days after they begin. 

According to scientificamerican.com, the system produces convincing decoys by searching through a document for keywords. For each one it finds, it calculates a list of related concepts and replaces the original term with one chosen at random. The process can produce dozens of documents that contain no proprietary information but still look plausible. 

Interested in learning more about new cyber technologies? Attend INNOTECH 2021 Cyber, HLS, and Innovation Event at Expo Tel Aviv, Nov. 17-18.