Thinking Tech

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The technique combines encryption and peer-to-peer technologies. A message encrypted with a public key is then timed to re-encrypt at a specific point, and then all copies run through the Vuze BitTorrent hash table.

Not really. But future posts might.

It's all thanks to a technology called Vanish, now being perfected at the University of Washington. Once made part of a Firefox plug-in, as planned, Vanish will let users not only set the destruction of messages, but erase every cached copy as well.

The technique combines encryption and peer-to-peer technologies. A message encrypted with a public key is then timed to re-encrypt at a specific point, and then all copies run through the Vuze BitTorrent hash table.

The current system supports time-out periods of 8-9 hours, although that can be adjusted.

The lead designer of Vanish is Tadayeshi Kohno, an assistant professor at the University of Washington. He was assisted by department chair Hank Levy, graduate student Roxana Geambasu, and undergraduate Amit Levy.

The technique, once perfected, could have wide application. Even someone with a warrant could not take back a Vanished message. Spies could send one another messages with full security, even against audit trails. So could corporate spies.

How will you use it?

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Dana Blankenhorn

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dana Blankenhorn has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age's "NetMarketing" supplement and founded the Interactive Age Daily for CMP Media. He holds degrees from Rice and Northwestern universities. He is based in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure