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One Step Ahead

Welcome to One Step Ahead, a periodic column featuring security and privacy tips from Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy. Look here for advice on safeguarding privacy and keeping a step ahead of scams, viruses, spyware, and other threats designed to steal confidential information, destroy data, or wreak havoc on PennNet.

Has Your Document Sprung a Leak? 

Electronic documents (e.g., Word, Excel, Adobe) may store hidden information, known as metadata, that you had no intention of sharing, such as prior revisions, deleted text, author and reviewer name(s), etc. Metadata is very useful for editing, viewing, filing, and retrieving documents.  However, its disclosure to inappropriate parties can have adverse consequences.

On December 4, 2005, the New York Times ran an article tracing the authorship of a publicly available White House document on Iraq to a Duke University political scientist who has closely studied public opinion about the war.  The revelation undercut the President’s oft-stated aversion to polls. The Times identified the document’s true author by downloading the document from the White House website and viewing the metadata.

In October 2005, the United Nations released a report on the investigation into the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  The document’s metadata showed that substantial revisions had been made, including deletion of the names of persons closely tied to the Syrian government.

To learn how to remove metadata from electronic documents before sharing them, see: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/assistance/HA010776461033.aspx.

 



 
  Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 17, January 10, 2006

ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS:

Tuesday,
January 10, 2006
Volume 52 Number 17
www.upenn.edu/almanac

 

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