DissidentX is a new steganography tool by Bram Cohen of BitTorrent fame designed to “vastly simplify the implementation of new steganographic techniques, and allow a universal decoder and encoding of multiple messages to different keys in the same file.” In particular, DissidentX allows encoding multiple plain texts into the same cover text with different keys, so called deniable encryption.
On January 5th 2012, an image was uploaded to various image boards. It contained two messages. One was obvious & easy to read. In white letters on a black background it said:
Hello. We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck. 3301As promised there was another message hidden inside the image. It was the start of a bizarre, as yet unexplained chain of complex hidden messages leading those who could solve them on a journey across the Internet and around the world towards a destination none of them could predict with certainty. Is it a highly evolved ARG? Is it a recruitment campaign for the NSA? Welcome to the mystery of Cicada 3301.
Steganographic information (account ID, a timestamp and the IP address of the current realm) is secretly embedded in World of Warcraft screen shots. Via Schneier.
The Haystack application aims to use steganography to hide samizdat-type data within a larger stream of innocuous network traffic. Thus, civilians in Iran, for example, could more easily evade Iranian censors and provide the world with an unfiltered report on events within the country. Haystack earned its creator Austin Heap a great deal of positive coverage from the media during the 2009 Iranian election protests. The BBC described Heap as "on the front lines" of the protesters' "Twitter revolution", while The Guardian called him an Innovator of the Year. Despite the laudatory coverage, however, the media were never given a copy of the software to examine. Indeed, not much is known about the software or its inner workings. Specialists in network encryption security were not allowed to perform an independent evaluation of Haystack, despite its distribution to and use by a small number of Iranians, possibly at some risk. As interest in the project widens and criticisms of the media coverage and software continue to mount, Heap has currently asked users to cease using Haystack until a security review can be performed.
The US Department of Justice has announced arrests in four states of ten alleged members of a “deep-cover” Russian spy ring whose ultimate goal was apparently to infiltrate U.S. policy-making circles. So much for burger diplomacy? [more inside]
The investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks (dubbed "Amerithrax" by the FBI) is now closed. Yesterday, the Department of Justice released a 92-page summary [pdf] of their investigation. Their conclusion -- that USAMRIID scientist Bruce Ivins was the culprit -- was backed by an impressive amount of evidence, including microbiological detective work (p. 23 ff). But some of the investigation was downright bizarre.... [more inside]
SecurityFocus is talking about Niels Provos, a graduate student well known for his work in steganography and for creating the honeyd program, having to move his research for his PhD from his U of Michigan homepage to a server in the Netherlands and keep U.S. citizens from viewing the information. Why? Because the state of Michigan passed their version of DMCA. I can see the routers and firewall software piling up in the trash.
Messaging ogling Google lobby [clip] "At Google's headquarters off Highway 101 in Mountain View, visitors sit in the lobby, transfixed by the words scrolling by on the wall:" [/endclip] [clip] So anyway... I thought to actually *message* the viewers with - I hope you Google-ites get a good kick out of searches! - no quotes. [/endclip] Results? Do it, Me-Fi! The link is to the full post at Topica.
Terrist messages in digital photographs questioned (salon.com). Last week, USA Today raised a stir by claiming that terrorists were trading hidden messages in images on ebay by the "hundreds" using an uncited source. Salon contacting other sources willing to go on the record found that finding hundreds of hidden messages requires sampling more files than were posted to ebay in the past year. In addition steganography analysis turns up a high rate of false-positivies. Is this a case of seeing what we want to see like the Bacon-Shakespeare ciphers?
A University of Michigan study has concluded that terrorists were not using hidden messages embedded in eBay auction images to plan the attacks. However, speculation that Ritz cracker advertisements were used has not yet been refuted.