Today’s troops often confiscate the remnants of destroyed documents in war zones, but reconstructing them is a daunting task. DARPA’s Shredder Challenge calls upon computer scientists, puzzle enthusiasts and anyone else who likes solving complex problems to compete for up to $50,000 by piecing together a series of shredded documents. The goal is to identify and assess potential capabilities that could be used by our warfighters operating in war zones, but might also create vulnerabilities to sensitive information that is protected through our own shredding practices throughout the U.S. national security community.
Presently, a variety of techniques exist for reconstructing shredded documents including manual assembly, fully automated (computerized) algorithms and hybrid operator-assisted approaches. DARPA hopes to gain new insight into which of these or other innovative techniques are quicker and more efficient, and, whether the wide availability of high resolution photography, communication and crowd-sourcing strategies offer unexpected advances.
“The ability to reconstruct shredded documents will potentially yield information that may save lives or offer critical information about an adversary’s plans,” said Mr. Dan Kaufman, Director of DARPA’s Information Innovation Office. “Currently, this process is much too slow and too labor-intensive, particularly if the documents are handwritten. We are looking to the Shredder Challenge to generate some leap-ahead thinking in this area.”
The Shredder Challenge is composed of five separate problems in which the number of documents, subject matter and the method of shredding is varied to present challenges of increasing difficulty. To complete each problem, participants are called upon to provide answers to puzzles embedded in the content of reconstructed documents. The overall prize awarded depends on the number and difficulty of problems solved.
Registration is open to all eligible parties at www.shredderchallenge.com, which provides detailed rules and images of the shredded documents for the five problems. The twitter hashtag for this event is #shredderchallenge. Participants are encouraged to build teams using the event forum and to monitor www.twitter.com/darpa_news for the latest news updates.