Steganography challenge


in Geek stuff, Security

In the past, I have posted a few cipher challenges for the cryptographically inclined. Here is a new one:

The above is an example of steganography rather than cryptography, though the two can be easily combined. Indeed, the same approach used above could be applied in a far more subtle and effective fashion. To save people some trouble, I can tell you that the hidden message is in the actual text shown, not hidden somewhere in the data file.

Here is a hint, weakly enciphered using ROT13: Guvf sbez bs frperg jevgvat jnf vairagrq ol Senapvf Onpba.

Report a typo or inaccuracy

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. August 28, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Presumably, the message is hidden in the pattern of italic and non-italic letters.

R.K. August 28, 2008 at 11:51 pm

Non-italic: N
Italic: I


R.K. August 29, 2008 at 1:01 am



Milan August 29, 2008 at 10:07 am


Litty August 29, 2008 at 11:25 am

…je ne comprends pas

. September 8, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Steganography: A Powerful Tool for Terrorists and Corporate Spies

June 28, 2005 | 2154 GMT

An incorrect CIA analysis caused U.S. authorities to cancel more than two dozen international flights and raise the Homeland Security Department’s terrorism alert level in late 2003, NBC news reported June 27. According to the report, the CIA believed that Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language satellite news channel based in Qatar, was transmitting coded information to terrorists using the moving text along the bottom of the screen, known as the “crawl.” Al Jazeera, the agency believed, was using a technique called “steganography” to conceal the codes.

At the time, CIA analysts believed the secret messages involved dates, locations and targets of terrorist attacks, including flight numbers of international flights and geographic coordinates of targets. Based in part on the analysis, authorities canceled almost 30 international flights by Air France, British Airways, Continental Airlines and Aeromexico, and raised the terrorism alert level to orange — the second-highest level — where it stayed for weeks. At the time, then-Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said the heightened state of alert was based on “credible sources.” Hidden messages, however, apparently were never found in Al Jazeera’s crawl.

Steganography, the technique of concealing hidden text and images in video images, is used to convey information to the intended recipient — and only the intended recipient. The word, which originated in antiquity and means “covered writing” in ancient Greek, was used by ancient armies to send secret messages back and forth between enemy lines. In modern times, steganography refers to encoding messages in computer software using algorithms and passwords.

Steganographic applications hide one computer file within another and are available on many different platforms, including Windows, Linux and BSD. Two files are needed for steganography. The first, known as a “cover file,” is a normal graphic or audio file, such as a .bmp, .jpeg or .wav. The second is the secret file — another image or document in any format. The second file is hidden in the cover file in the form of an algorithm. Using decrypting software, the recipient can use a password to decode the hidden file.

Like any code, steganography can be used for both legitimate and nefarious purposes. A good use might be hiding a list of passwords or access codes in an innocuous picture. Another use is a technique called “digital watermarking,” used by individuals and corporations to secure and enforce copyrights by placing a hidden mark in a file. Steganography, however, also can be use to smuggle confidential or critical data out of a company disguised as innocent pictures. This technique can be used to compromise security information, such as the itineraries of CEOs and the composition of personal protection details. There is no limit to the kind or the amount of information that can be compromised.

. August 25, 2010 at 2:46 pm

“Carmen and her mother are close. As far as Carmen’s concerned, she has nothing to hide from her mother so she’s happy to have her mom as her ‘friend’ on Facebook. Of course, Carmen’s mom doesn’t always understand the social protocols on Facebook and Carmen sometimes gets frustrated. She hates that her mom comments on nearly every post, because it “scares everyone away…Everyone kind of disappears after the mom post…It’s just uncool having your mom all over your wall. That’s just lame.” Still, she knows that her mom means well and she sometimes uses this pattern to her advantage. While Carmen welcomes her mother’s presence, she also knows her mother overreacts. In order to avoid a freak out, Carmen will avoid posting things that have a high likelihood of mother misinterpretation. This can make communication tricky at times and Carmen must work to write in ways that are interpreted differently by different people.

When Carmen broke up with her boyfriend, she “wasn’t in the happiest state.” The breakup happened while she was on a school trip and her mother was already nervous. Initially, Carmen was going to mark the breakup with lyrics from a song that she had been listening to, but then she realized that the lyrics were quite depressing and worried that if her mom read them, she’d “have a heart attack and think that something is wrong.” She decided not to post the lyrics. Instead, she posted lyrics from Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” This strategy was effective. Her mother wrote her a note saying that she seemed happy which made her laugh. But her closest friends knew that this song appears in the movie when the characters are about to be killed. They reached out to her immediately to see how she was really feeling.

Carmen is engaging in social steganography. She’s hiding information in plain sight, creating a message that can be read in one way by those who aren’t in the know and read differently by those who are. She’s communicating to different audiences simultaneously, relying on specific cultural awareness to provide the right interpretive lens. While she’s focused primarily on separating her mother from her friends, her message is also meaningless to broader audiences who have no idea that she had just broken up with her boyfriend. As far as they’re concerned, Carmen just posted an interesting lyric.”

. April 23, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Speaking with silence
Tinkering with Skype can allow people to send undetectable messages July 12, 2013 at 2:06 am

…. . – …. .- – .– — ..- .-.. -.. -.- . . .–. .- … . -.-. .-. . – –..– — ..- … – -.- . . .–. .. – … . -.-. .-. . – – …. .- – …. . …. .- … .- … . -.-. .-. . – – — -.- . . .–

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