Australian Institute of Criminology

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Strategies for Covert Web Search

Dr George R S Weir
74 Leichhardt Street, Griffith ACT - FREE EVENT
11:00am-12:00pm 18 November 2013

Dr George Weir

Web search engines provide easy access to a wealth of open access information but depend for their optimal use upon careful selection of search terms in order to return a high proportion of relevant information. Generally, this implies a clear association between the meaning of the chosen search expression and the information needs of the searcher. In contrast, this paper considers a scenario in which the searcher may wish to retrieve information without making their information requirements transparent. We argue that careful choice of non-optimal search strategy can facilitate retrieval of relevant information in a covert fashion that conceals the searcher’s intention by ensuring return of a majority of irrelevant search hits. This suggests the viability of covert search and raises issues regarding surveillance and counter-surveillance.


Dr George R S Weir is a lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Strathclyde, where he has taught for over twenty years.  He holds degrees in philosophy from the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh. His academic research has focused mainly on Cybercrime, Security, HCI, E-learning, Corpus Linguistics and Readability, and he has published extensively on these topics. He is General Chair for the Cyberforensics conference, held annually in the UK. (Further information on his related work is available at

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