Thursday, November 16, 2017

MT Hackng Update

I thought to take a rest after Post 400, but the material keeps on coming.

A few weeks ago, a post here about automata warned that MT systems are vulnerable to hackers. Here is the relevant part of the post; for the full post, enter hacking in the Search box on the right.

It said that translating had already been partly robotized by the invention, progress and popular acceptance of machine translation (MT). Only partly robotized, so the danger isn't yet apparent, but there may be much more and much worse to come…
"We know now that virtually all computer communications can be hacked and subverted: supposedly encoded emails, secret diplomatic despatches, election systems, etc – according to this morning's papers, even defibrilators. There's no reason MT systems, through which users channel millions of words a day, should be exempt. And if they can be hacked they can be subverted… That doesn't even require access to the source text or knowledge of the source language."
Well, the worse is already coming. Here's the latest. It concerns rhe Norwegian firm Statoil, "one of the world's biggest oil and gas companies."
"NRK Norwegian news agency reports that the $46 billion business used, a free online tool, to translate 'notices of dismissal, plans of workforce reductions and outsourcing, passwords, code information and contracts.'  Then, the story continues, .. a college professor Googled Statoil. In her results were the company's translations."
It seems, however, that I was not alone,
"The translation industry saw the breach coming, 'It was something we had been warning about for 10 years or so,' says Don DePalma, chief strategist at Cambridge-based think tank Common Sense Advisory."
The translation industry sees it perhaps, but do the millions of more naive users? Was the Statoil breach truly the result of hacking or just of a computer glitch? Either way, the system was vulnerable. The conclusion is obvious: don't send anything confidential for translation by an MT system, even (or especially) a free one.

Terena Bell. Data breached in translation. CSO, 9 November 2017. or click [here].


  1. Actually, it is possible to setup an MT server to keep information confidential and secure. Incompetent or careless providers should not be the final judgement on the technology. Even Google and Microsoft use the data via machine learning algorithms to improve the service not to actually spy on you. If you are this afraid to use MT you should be much more concerned about email which is much easier to hack and expose than an MT server. and many translation agency are an example of how NOT TO DO MT -- rather than a wholesale dismissal of the technology.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.