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DARPA's Shredder Challenge is solved ahead of schedule

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December 5, 2011

A team has claimed the complete prize purse in DARPA's Shredder Challenge, two days before...

A team has claimed the complete prize purse in DARPA's Shredder Challenge, two days before the contest deadline

At the end of October, DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) launched its Shredder Challenge contest. The objective: create a system for reconstructing shredded papers, then demonstrate it by piecing together five documents, the shredded remains of which were posted on the contest's website. Although the contest had a December 4th deadline, the "All Your Shreds Are Belong to U.S." team correctly reassembled all five documents with two days to spare.

The San Francisco-based team, which beat out approximately 9,000 competitors, used "custom-coded, computer-vision algorithms to suggest fragment pairings to human assemblers for verification." Members of the team spent approximately 600 man-hours developing algorithms and otherwise working on the challenge, completing everything within 33 days. Because it was able to reconstruct all five documents posted in the contest, the team was able to claim the complete prize of US$50,000.

DARPA hosted the contest both to develop methods of reading shredded documents left behind by enemies in war zones, and to identify ways in which U.S. shredded documents could be read by other parties, so that countermeasures could be developed.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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14 Comments

How embarrasing!

They spend upwards of $100 billion a year, and employ more than 100,000 thousand of "the worlds brightest" to solve on this stuff, then discover that a bunch of kids calling themselves "All Your Shreds Are Belong to U.S." answered their hardest myserty in just a month, for free :-)

LOL.

(hey, what's that craclking sound on my internet line?)

christopher
5th December, 2011 @ 05:08 pm PST

Congrats to the "All Your Shreds Are Belong to U.S" team !!!

Guess the only alternative would be to confetti the shredding

to smaller sizes then either chemically dissolve, flash flame,

or blow the confetti into the wind.

What will DARPA think of next ?!?

BombR76
5th December, 2011 @ 05:27 pm PST

Really, who does not burn their documents?

Oh yes, the American Iranian Embassy in 1979!

Instead of a computer algorithm, the Iranians uses students (and a lot of time) to put it all back together.....

Still, it is once again inspiring what a bunch of nerds juiced up on stimulants can do with their computers.

Our US nerds are better than anyone else's nerds!

Laugh if you want. Bill Gates could buy everyone reading this with the interest he gets in an hour....

PrometheusGoneWild.com
5th December, 2011 @ 06:30 pm PST

The "countermeasure" is obvious: shred, then burn, then scatter the ashes. There, that suggestion is free... had they simply called me, I could have saved them a bunch of money.

William H Lanteigne
5th December, 2011 @ 07:25 pm PST

So, the U.S. government spent at least $50K to determine, ostensibly, a better way to spy on our enemies while at the same time coming up with information and ideas on how to better conceal our own secrets when printed out. Seems to me burning the documents would cost considerably less and we don't spy on our enemies anymore. If they don't outright tells us about it, we will never know about it so it is also a waste of money for that purpose.

Rt1583
6th December, 2011 @ 03:08 am PST

This just goes to show that when you hold competitions that are open to anyone, you often get better results for less than you would if you had simply chosen a normal contractor to do what you wanted.

Oztechi
6th December, 2011 @ 04:55 am PST

I like how the government got it's own citizens to figure out away to more easily spy on its own citizens.

rangermonk
6th December, 2011 @ 05:16 am PST

Dennis,

There is no "American Iranian embassy" and has never been nor will there ever be an "American Iranian embassy"! Many of the alleged document were incorrectly formatted and obviously faked. DTGs and Julian dates did not match.

I have a nice bridge to sell you in Death Valley...

JoeB
6th December, 2011 @ 05:48 am PST

...alternatively, what happened to the 'This message will self- destruct' thing...

Chris.

====

Chris7527
6th December, 2011 @ 08:33 am PST

If you don't want somebody to read something, don't put it on paper.

Zukey Badtouch
6th December, 2011 @ 11:09 am PST

My theory: a US spy agency arranges with DARPA to publicize this contest so the world knows that reading shredded material is possible. The same agency then "loses" a few bags of shredded documents, somewhere where they will be found and, it is hoped, reassembled. Result: credible disinformation distributed, for only a small investment of time and expense.

ralph.dratman
6th December, 2011 @ 03:54 pm PST

One step closer to the method of digitizing books that Vernor Vinge wrote in "Rainbows End".

He had them chucking whole books through a shredder then the "shredda" blown through a tube lined with thousands of micro cameras capturing millions of images of the pieces, which computers would re-assemble and OCR. Books digitized in seconds!

Gregg Eshelman
6th December, 2011 @ 05:11 pm PST

Great job guys. Now try and get paid ....

Christopher Porozny
10th December, 2011 @ 06:55 am PST

Now which White House administration using IBM's Lotus Notes email system was it that thought that the way to purge all of its sensitive communications was to print them out and then shred them?

machapelle
30th April, 2012 @ 08:14 am PDT
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