To fight terrorism, the Information Awareness Office (IAO) of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is planning to develop a system that uses a super database of recorded online transactions and analytical programming that will identify what is referred to as the information signature of a terrorist or terrorist activity before harm can be done. The information signature is really a pattern of electronic data gathered from public and private sources that matches or approximates previously identified patterns. After a terrorist act has occurred, law enforcement agencies are often able to identify who is responsible for the attack by tracing transactional records and following what investigators call a "paper trail". Law enforcement agencies hope to establish a database of paper trails to understand how terrorists prepare for an attack so that they can prevent future attacks.
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The Information Awareness Office was established to mandate the development of data mining and knowledge discovery technologies capable of detecting the information signature of a potential terrorist. The Office has established a five-year plan culminating in the delivery of such a capability, which will be called the Total Information Awareness (TIA) system.
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- John Poindexter includes more information about information signatures in his "Overview of the Information Awareness Office".