Researchers Reconstruct 'Vanished' Electronic Records

Lora Bentley

Remember Vanish? My boss and I, as well as a few of my attorney friends, were quite surprised that the story wasn't bigger when it first broke. Technology that could make e-mails and other electronic documents disappear?


Sure it would come in handy for those trying to save storage space, but it would also prove quite helpful if anyone needed to get rid of a questionable e-mail. With regulatory retention requirements and the discovery requirements around electronically stored information, the idea of Vanish brought to mind obstruction charges and sanctions for spoliation of evidence.


It didn't pass my smell test, but for some reason, not many people were talking about it. A New York Times piece published Tuesday might offer a hint as to why. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Michigan and Princeton University have caused records that were set to "self-distruct" with Vanish to reappear, the story says. They called their project "Unvanish."


According to The New York Times:

The Vanish attackers ... use[d] a single computer to masquerade as a large number of members of a file-sharing network. That rogue machine would simply need to capture and store anything that looked like a Vanish key fragment.


Maybe that's why the story wasn't bigger when it broke; Vanish didn't work.

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