Backdating Web Archives: Manipulation through ‘hashing’ html script | Organic Computing

Do you use Wayback Archives (https://archive.org/web/web.php)  as a point of reference? As with all things on the net, search results are open to manipulation. The following article expresses concern over the integrity of the internet and other web security vulnerabilities which need to be remedied in order for the internet to remain secure.

Bryan Stralow, Editor-in-chief, organiclifestyle.blog

As I am a bit of a computer nerd or ‘noob’ — a perspective-based assessment perhaps– I often frequent the internet archives known as ‘the Wayback Machine‘. Cheap thrills, some may say. Whilst there are many who know of the web archives existence, there are an overwhelming amount of people who may not realise that what they are seeing may be altered to provide a different ‘viewpoint’ to the end user (meaning ‘you’). This manipulation occurs through scripting or ‘hashing’ html code to usually indicate a longer-serving presence.

wayback-machine-logo
Image Courtesy of archive.org

What is the purpose of increasing the age of the webpage?‘ you may ask, well, the first benefit that comes to mind is that there are certain legal benefits, especially, pertaining to ‘product origin’ and patent law arguments that would often utilise the web archives in order to determine point of origin of an idea, concept or product.

In an ACM conference held in Dallas, Texas proceeding recently released by a collective of specialists from University of Washington (https://rewritinghistory.cs.washington.edu/, Authors, T.Kohno and F.Roesner) and Wellesley College (https://repository.wellesley.edu/scholarship/158/, Author, A.Lerner) appropriately named “Rewriting History: Changing the Archived Web from the Present”  in 2017, the validity of the web archives are not only thoroughly discussed but are also exemplified through ‘proof-of-concept’ implementations and are probed through the intentional manipulation of the html script contained on various existing webpages.

Whilst the Authors admit that there may be a number of occasions where the manipulation occurs through error or without the owner of a webserver knowing, they do state that, in most instances, the errors are seemingly intentional with blatant manipulation of server-side files, robot.txt files, etc. in an attempt by the owner of the webserver to ‘add an air of precedence and originality’ to the website.

The Authors do also propose a remedy in that the Wayback Machine is also regulated through another program aptly called “ArchiveWatcher”. Perhaps then multiple “Archive Watchers” surveilling each other can ‘ensure’ the validity of the material being viewed.

The concept of changing history is not a recent initiative.

Historical Negationism

Wikipedia states: Historical negationism[1][2] or denialism is an illegitimate distortion of the historical record. It is often imprecisely or intentionally incorrectly referred to as historical revisionism, but that term also denotes a legitimate academic pursuit of re-interpretation of the historical record and questioning the accepted views.[3]
In attempting to revise the past, illegitimate historical revisionism may use techniques inadmissible in proper historical discourse, such as presenting known forged documents as genuine; inventing ingenious but implausible reasons for distrusting genuine documents; attributing conclusions to books and sources that report the opposite; manipulating statistical series to support the given point of view; and deliberately mis-translating texts (in languages other than the revisionist’s).[4]
Some countries, such as Germany, have criminalised the negationist revision of certain historical events, while others take a more cautious position for various reasons, such as protection of free speech; still others mandate negationist views.
Notable examples of negationism include Holocaust denial, Armenian Genocide denial, Japanese war crime denial[5][6] and the denial of Soviet crimes (such as the Holodomor, invasion of Poland, the Katyn massacre, and the forced deportations of Poles, Romanians/Moldovans, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Tatars, and etc.)
In literature, the consequences of historical negationism have been imaginatively depicted in some works of fiction, such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell. In modern times, negationism may spread via new media, such as the Internet. 

Mark Twain once said,

“Always tell the truth, that way you don’t have to remember what you’ve said”

Citation: Ada Lerner, Tadayoshi Kohno, and Franziska Roesner, “Rewriting History: Changing the Archived Web from the Present”. Presented at ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS). Dallas, Texas, USA, October 30, 2017 to November 3, 2017. pdf download p1741-lernerAT3

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