Scientists in Switzerland said on Friday they had devised software that can swiftly trace terror suspects, computer viruses, rumour-mongering and even infectious diseases back to their source.
“Using our method, we can find the source of all kinds of things circulating in a network just by ‘listening’ to a limited number of members of that network,” said researcher Pedro Pinto of Lausanne’s Federal Polytechnic (EPFL).
A key factor is using the time at which the data is passed from sender to recipient, to help investigators follow as the path as directly as possible and eliminate false trails.
Publishing in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters, Pinto’s team tested the algorithm on a known data maze to see if the tool could pinpoint the individuals behind the September 11 attacks on the United States.
“By reconstructing the message exchange inside the 9/11 terrorist network extracted from publicly released news, our system spit out the names of three potential suspects — one of whom was found to be the mastermind of the attacks, according to the official enquiry,” he said.