On divergence-based author obfuscation: An attack on the state of the art in statistical authorship verification

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it - Information Technology: Vol. 62, No. 2
De Gruyter
Authorship verification is the task of determining whether two texts were written by the same author based on a writing style analysis. Author obfuscation is the adversarial task of preventing a successful verification by altering a text’s style so that it does not resemble that of its original author anymore. This paper introduces new algorithms for both tasks and reports on a comprehensive evaluation to ascertain the merits of the state of the art in authorship verification to withstand obfuscation. After introducing a new generalization of the well-known unmasking algorithm for short texts, thus completing our collection of state-of-the-art algorithms for verification, we introduce an approach that (1) models writing style difference as the Jensen-Shannon distance between the character n-gram distributions of texts, and (2) manipulates an author’s writing style in a sophisticated manner using heuristic search. For obfuscation, we explore the huge space of textual variants in order to find a paraphrased version of the to-be-obfuscated text that has a sufficiently high Jensen-Shannon distance at minimal costs in terms of text quality loss. We analyze, quantify, and illustrate the rationale of this approach, define paraphrasing operators, derive text length-invariant thresholds for termination, and develop an effective obfuscation framework. Our authorship obfuscation approach defeats the presented state-of-the-art verification approaches, while keeping text changes at a minimum. As a final contribution, we discuss and experimentally evaluate a reverse obfuscation attack against our obfuscation approach as well as possible remedies.
Bevendorff, Janek; Wenzel, Tobias; Potthast, Martin; Hagen, Matthias; Stein, Benno (2020): On divergence-based author obfuscation: An attack on the state of the art in statistical authorship verification. it - Information Technology: Vol. 62, No. 2. DOI: 10.1515/itit-2019-0046. Berlin: De Gruyter. PISSN: 2196-7032. pp. 99-115