My field is primarily connected with computer networks. Sometime in 2016, I discovered a vulnerability which at that time was not known (I searched a lot to make sure). I experimented with it and got exciting results. However, I couldn't publish it immediately due to some-other work my prof gave me.

When I was looking for good conferences on this subject I came across a GitHub repository exhibiting the same concept but it was created just months back. The work has not appeared in any conferences/journals.

I was wondering, since I thought of it and implemented it first, can I send it to a conference or would that count as plagiarism?

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    "...since I thought of it and implemented it first" That is a bit difficult to prove now. Don't get me wrong. It's not plagiarism but certainly affects the novelty aspect of it. Nov 10, 2017 at 13:50
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    Whether or not it's plagiarism, you might want to acknowledge the existence of the other work that was released between your discovery and publication. Doing so would certainly make it easier to explain why your result is novel or interesting.
    – fectin
    Nov 10, 2017 at 19:01
  • No, but how much proof do you have that you discovered it first? (e.g. an email to self or others from back then?) It's highly useful to state you discovered it on date X, other named researchers subsequently independently discovered it on date Y.
    – smci
    Nov 11, 2017 at 3:00
  • @smci Yes, I have emails. However, the absolute proofs have legal ramifications since, this is after all pertaining to vulnerabilities and you do know what follows when a vulnerability has been discovered.
    – Aakusti
    Nov 11, 2017 at 4:20
  • cite the other work as addressing the same problem, but mention that you thought of the same problem independently and add any of the ideas you came to think of which the other paper may have missed. it is quite rarely that even if two people come to think of something independently that they make exactly the same deductions or have the exactly same approach to deal with it. Nov 11, 2017 at 9:56

4 Answers 4


Plagiarism is the explicit use of someone's work without attribution or permission, usually with the intent of passing it off as your own.

In the present case, the mere existence of the same work elsewhere does not make your work plagiarism. If you used their work and did not give them credit, that would be plagiarism.

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    Note: permission is irrelevant to plagiarism, that's an issue of copyright. If you hire someone to write your PhD thesis, then you obviously do have their permission to use their work, but it's obviously still plagiarism. Conversely, if you steal someone's work, but properly cite and attribute it and give credit, then it's not plagiarism but still a copyright violation. The two concepts are orthogonal. Nov 10, 2017 at 10:50
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    @JörgWMittag "If you hire someone to write your PhD thesis, then you obviously do have their permission to use their work, but it's obviously still plagiarism." Actually I do not think this is considered as plagiarism; it is in a still different category of usually inadmissible practices. (This is tangential though.)
    – quid
    Nov 10, 2017 at 18:14
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    @quid I think it's plagiarism because you present the thesis as written by you when in fact your ghostwriter wrote it. If you commissioned a thesis from me, and said to your university, "Here is my thesis (all work done by amalloy)", that would not be plagiarism but would not generally earn you a PhD. But people usually don't advertise that they used a ghostwriter, so this kind of cheating is usually also plagiarism.
    – amalloy
    Nov 10, 2017 at 22:29
  • @amalloy to be sure, there can be no doubt that it is very severe academic misconduct to hand in a thesis written by somebody else. For one thing it is common that one certifies that the work presented in the thesis is ones own, which in that case would be a lie.Thus it is of course cheating. Nevertheless it is according to my understanding of the word just not plagiarism. It is a different form of problem. But there may be different usages (some broader some more narrocw) of the word plagiarism in common use.
    – quid
    Nov 10, 2017 at 23:16
  • I think the definition is quite clear. Merriam-Webster's definition of plagiarize: "to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own; use (another's production) without crediting the source".
    – amalloy
    Nov 10, 2017 at 23:46

Note that A) they may have worked on this prior to uploading code to github, and B) could have their results 'under review' somewhere already. Worst case, they submit to the same conference as you.

Since you worked independently it by definition is not plagiarism.

It may nevertheless be good to acknowledge their work as independent related work. You have seen it, you have noticed the overlap, and you claim that your solution existed before you found theirs.

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    Another voice for "acknowledge the other work". If you don't and others know about it, you look like the one who swiped the idea. That person in this small field (and all their friends) will not be impressed. Having seen it, you can't unsee it. Nov 10, 2017 at 11:58
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    Well, you look like you either swiped their idea, or are genuinely unaware of publicly accessible, directly related work in your field. You'd have to be ignorant or feigning ignorance - neither looks good.
    – Rob Hogan
    Nov 10, 2017 at 15:15

My understanding of coding Plagiarism would be trying to pass off another person's work as your own. In this case, two people identified a security vulnerability independently and at different times.

Given the 'niche' nature of the exploit, it will be up to you to demonstrate original research on the topic matter. In your paper, I don't see why not you can't reference the work of the other person and postulate that their conclusions weren't the same as yours.


I had a similar situation with my undergrad dissertation. As daft as it sounds I had been researching hashing functions and had never heard of a pseudo hash which my new invention equated to. I did a lot of research into the area and how my method was unique and it wasn't until I had submitted it that I found out about the pseudo hash, I passed but with a lesser mark than expecting.

Bottom line is that what you have on your hands isn't plagiarism, just the unfortunate circumstance that what you thought was unique isn't, however if you've done your research and referenced it which I suspect you have then you will be fine.

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