Cатсн²² (in)sесuяitу / ChrisJohnRiley

Because we're damned if we do, and we're damned if we don't!

Plagiarism: The death of open information sharing?

Warning: What follows is my uneducated rant on plagiarism and the effects I think it’s having on information exchange within the InfoSec community. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do have questions! Take it as you will…


[pley-juh-riz-uhm, -jee-uh-riz-]


1. the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author
     and the representation of themas one’s own original work.
2. something used and represented in this manner.
source: dictionary.com

Maybe it’s just me, but over the last year or so I’ve seen more websites, blogs and news articles talking about plagiarism than ever before! We’ve seen everything from sites being scraped and content reproduced in it’s entirety, through to information sources plundered for content for low quality books… and copied word for word, without thought or care!

In an age were we’re already seeing a serious decline in active blogs in favour of short 140 character tweets, we can hardly afford to be killing off the enthusiasm of those bloggers we do have left! The InfoSec community has always been built on open information sharing. In this industry we live and die by the information we have to hand. Wether that’s something we research ourselves, or something shared in-kind. For every piece of research somebody shares, there were hundreds more they could rely upon being made freely available. This unspoken information sharing pact has made the InfoSec community what it is, and helped to make the most of the researchers time, skills and dedication.

Staff and student perceptions of plagiarism by jobadge

(CC BY-NC 2.0) by jobadge

Not everybody can reverse engineer the latest Zeus Trojan, but you always knew somewhere, somebody would, because that’s what they did! However that information sharing is lessening as the people really doing the research have their hard-earned work stolen out from under them, and posted on one of a myriad of copy sites… without permission.

Those behind the plagiarism, at least those that have a shred of decency (few and far between), talk a lot about giving credit. What they don’t seem to understand is that regardless, taking someone’s hard work, without their permission, and using it for your own uses is plagiarism, full stop. The problem comes when trying to prove these issues in an Internet, and therefore global, context. As an English citizen, living in Austria, with hosting based in the US… who’s laws (if any) are broken when a third-party takes your content? I’m not a lawyer, so I have no idea. All I know is, I didn’t give you permission…

The Internet is a wonderful thing, filled with great information and sources… copying other people’s hard work, research and abusing their dedication to this community is beyond low.

Resources on plagiarism .:

Note .:

Although I’ve occasionally been the target of plagiarism in the form of copied blog posts from these pages, I’m not writing this rant for that reason. There’s no point. I really see this issue as one of the biggest threats to the InfoSec community currently, and it needs to stop. The only problem is… those who are plagiarizing have no respect for the InfoSec community. They’re just out to make a buck, or ten, on the backs of the hard work done by others… History repeating itself in the digital age! Who’d have thought!


Feel free to plagiarise this blog post.. it serves to prove the point!

Note 2 .:

After a spirited discussion on Twitter about this post, a friend of mine, @krypt3ia, was nice enough to propose a logo to show your disgust at the increase in Plagiarism… I think it’s a good starting point, so include it here for your use! spread the word!

12 responses to “Plagiarism: The death of open information sharing?

  1. J. Lambrecht July 13, 2011 at 10:31

    Great post. There are so many angles to this topic. Here are a few of my own. Will not let the chance pass to spill my frustrations would i not.

    * As a lowly Operational Security Engineer i like to be on-the-spot when it get’s to getting news updates. Due to the ‘aggregators’ on the interweb this is easily described as bothersome, nervewrecking. These aggregators don’t allways keep track of the whole story and do attract quite a bit of people with less then serious mindsets.Bloatware on legs so to speak.

    * It came to my attention that companies harvest idea’s on forums, newsgroups, blogs, wherever which they then use to build products protected by IP. That’s sick. I know these days people don’t value an idea, because anyone can have one (duh!) but that’s counter-productive and counter-innovative. It are the people actually having an idea who are best suitable to position and elaborate on them.Idea’s don’t come cheap you know, but they are shared as a matter of social-intelligence or altruism (“sharing is caring”). Companies, IMHO, would benefit greatly from a more positive attitude towards ‘sharers’.

  2. J. Lambrecht July 13, 2011 at 11:29

    Additionally … it would prove more then beneficial to license your content with Creative Commons type licensing, this license is accepted worldwide and under continuous review. Plugins exist for at least one browser (Firefox) to make your contents license visible to the visitor.

    Moreover it gives you the right to decide how, to who etc. you share your content.


    Hope this proves usefull.

  3. ChrisJohnRiley July 13, 2011 at 13:21

    Ironically I actually removed my CreativeCommons badge as I started to wonder if said “aggregators” where seeing it as permission to copy my content! I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about CreativeCommons licensing… and until that is resolved, I don’t see it being useful! At least, for me!

  4. Ryk Edelstein July 20, 2011 at 21:54

    Chris, set this up on Cafepress, and I will buy the T-Shirt !!!

  5. Ben Rothke July 21, 2011 at 04:09

    Chris – Excellent write-up.

    Plagiarism is certainly bad, but I think it is a bit draconian to suggest that it is the death of open information sharing.

    As an associate editor for ‘Information Security Journal: A Global Perspective’ (http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/uiss20/current), I can tell you that the community is able to identify plagiarism, and over time, the culprits are caught.

    Speaking of plagiarists being caught, I think the ultimate irony is that LIGATT illegally scraped my article “Lessons from LIGATT’ last week at https://www.infosecisland.com/blogview/15064-Lessons-from-LIGATT.html, and hosted it on their web site. Talk about Darwin Award nominees.

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