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Most of us have heard of computer network “honey traps” to lure in bad guys, but “canary traps” are new to me: “The canary trap technique in espionage spreads multiple versions of false documents to conceal a secret.”

At Dartmouth, cybersecurity folks are using AI to build a better canary trap, says Dartmouth News Service. Full story is here.

The system automatically creates false documents to protect intellectual property such as drug design and military technology.

“The system produces documents that are sufficiently similar to the original to be plausible, but sufficiently different to be incorrect,” says V.S. Subrahmanian, the Distinguished Professor in Cybersecurity, Technology, and Society and director of the Institute for Security, Technology, and Society.

Why “canary”, by the way? Why that particular bird? I asked the article’s author, David Hirsch, and he didn’t know for sure but suggested that the espionage folks might have picked it up from “singing like a canary”, a metaphor for a bad guy talking to the cops – which sounds reasonable.

I asked Ben Zimmer, who writes a linguistics column for the Wall Street Journal. his response: ” “Canary trap” appears to have been coined (or at least popularized) by Tom Clancy in his 1987 novel “Patriot Games.” Much like how John le Carré introduced “honey trap” in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” “

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