« TechStuff

TechStuff Classic: How Steganography Works

2022-04-01 | 🔗

How can you hide a message so that no one knows you're even communicating? Use steganography! Ariel Kasten joins the show to talk about the art of hiding messages.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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the welcome to tech stuff, a production from Iheartradio, the hey there and welcome to the tech stuff. I'm your host Jonathan Strickland, I'm an executive producer for thy heart radio and how tech aren't well time for a classic episode of Techstuff text. Of this episode originally published on April 15th, two thousand and fifteen, it is titled house. not graffiti works, is not a dinosaur. I can't remember if I actually made that joke in this episode, I guess we're gonna find out. Let's listen. This is an ancient listener, request, folks, so Peter. I apologize it took so long rest to get there, but I'm really say that we get the cupboard today. Here's what Peter wrote he said. I recently bought a book called data hiding that is about the stag inaugural, I look to see if this is something you have covered but found you had not. I think that this would be an extremely interesting topic. You would be,
cover the ways in which data can be hidden as well. Who uses such techniques like Al Qaeda or the Nsx. a malware authors, hobbyists, etc yeah we're cover staggeringly, which is not what I urgently thought it was. Will I originally thought it was the study of stick a sore. I Stiga sources, yeah. I thought it was the study of dinosaur, calligraphy, so we were both on the wrong track as it turns out. Yes, actually is steganography well taken the is the art of hiding something within something else. It can be simple, like a hidden message in a painting or photograph or it can something really complicated like an electronic file or message hidden in another file or message: yeah yeah, so It's essentially the the art of able to send a message without people, even knowing that you ve done so right. That's that's! The goal of second aggravate so
the parties and stuck in order if he there there. This is how we break it down. You ve got the sender, that's the person whose created them said she wants to communicate something The receiver, which is the person who the message is intended to go to carry your message, which is the b the construct that hides the secret message. So this could be, whatever like it could be a painting. The roaring note about ear cousin, yes older or it could be a soccer ball that happens to have written on the inside of it that Wilson in the way, was in fact ass, they're gonna ground, which is the other men element so by the way there are a lot of greek words and greek names and some roman names of Latin as well that's going to be, though, all of those going to be popping up. There are also a couple of other names from other cultures. I'm an ignorant American. So
my pronunciation is going to be awful, and I can barely grasped the american language which have grown up Ah, my life's a mine will be works yet so just just then you guys know that I had a time so the skiff Stick Anna Gram, never going That's the anagram otherwise known as the secret message we're just I'm going to call from now on and potentially third party, so in other words people who might come into contact with this message. the goal is to make sure that those third parties are never aware that there is a message there in the first place and if it's done right, they won't yeah. So, in other words, you could have a messenger a go between carry this thing. from one person to the other and never know that there was something hidden in their other. Sometimes it's good if there are confident because to get a message to the person who needs to decipher it how to decipher right right. If the person who receives the message is aware of the method to find it,
it, doesn't do them a lot of good, so if you have been able to collude with your receiver left. If I'm sending a message to aerial Ariel and I have decided ahead of time. Hey if I we need to send you a message. This is how I M going to do it, and this is how you are going to see what the messages then we're. Ok, but If it's a situation where aerial and I have been separated for a long time- and I need to send her a message- and I need to be secret- I've gotta figure out a way to give her instructions as to how to retrieve that message. and sometimes that involves you know paying somebody like, just her tell why the wax off the notifying, whatever needs a little bit like the so, although their wash the wax off its good advice to yeah sure yeah I mean just in general, so we the elements here. Those are your basic elements to to steganography actually makes sense,
talk about the difference between that and a related art cryptography which yes, cryptography, is the art of making and solving codes, but anyway, can see that it's a code right. So if I said coded message to aerial. It may be that any third party can't see what the messages, but they know I'm trying to communicate to you, because, whilst when he sent me a piece of paper. as MR visited with legal Seagate everything you be unless I've just fallen asleep at my keyboard, then clear the untried to say something so and then I'm just wasting my time trying to write so cryptography. keys in people that some going on People know there's some sort of communication and you might have a pretty, Paul type of code, a simple cipher, where the
what classic substitution cipher, where you substitute one letter for another, the simplest being, let's shift all the letters over by one so and it up. Whenever I I write the letter b. I really mean the letter a whenever the letter c, I really mean the letter B. This is is called a real bad cipher. It's easy to figure out When I try to do the cryptograms in puzzle, books what sometimes a substitution cipher can get a little more complicated. So, for example, when you substitute one letter for another, then the next time you substitute a letter. You actually shift over again, so in other words, the time. You only shift over one letter, the second time you shift over two letters. The third time you should over three letters. So if you know the the algorithm, if you know the pattern, then when get the message, you can reverse that, and you know to look for it. If you I pattern that you have to spend more time trying to figure out what the pattern and why
that still is a fairly simple example. Things like the arm. the Enigma machine in World war, two which was the Germans way of sending coded messages they had this machine. They had three different, the basic when I free different dials that they would set and I had a typewriter and a bunch of lamps and when you press down a he of the letter, a lamp with light up indicating a different letter. So let's say I type the letter e to type an enigma, but the letter for in lights up, then it would actually go a certain number of steps so that the next letter I type would be the totally unpredictable letter. If I didn't have an Enigma machine of my own. Well, that's really good, because if I tried to write a cipher
I totally lose place of where I was. If I was constantly shifting the letter yeah and my message would be nonsensical, both decrypted yeah exactly that does does the reason why the Germans were using a machine so that way it could be predictable, but only both parties had the same style of Enigma machine and they both knew what the initial settings were so part of the communication It would include a a key saying: this is what you need to set it to although technically they were all supposed to have a communication, them, what settings to use each day- and they were never supposed to repeat those settings- eventually look out lazy and that's how, those codes were eventually broken by Alan Turing, which you can see in that film imitation imitation game, exactly so second atrophy obviously is different from cryptography in that year.
You're still sending secret messages, but the message itself. The existence of the message is secret. Anybody, The layman, looking at the message, the photo or paper won't know it's there right so you you can still encrypt it. You can still use cryptography, in fact, using both Gather makes a lot of sense, but ultimate, Lee was stuck in order. If he, if you ve hidden message well enough and people are not. If people dont know d, look for it, it's safe to be in plain text to whomever you're sending it to depending upon what method use cause there a lot of different ones right great way to further explain it is to go back to the greek cryptography, Mean secret, writing and steganography means covered writing I was there, because I was really surprised. I set it correctly, while every time I see it correctly, I will also be surprised yeah, so that really that's gets down to the heart of it right.
The combination of the two allows you to have more secure communication now, there's an art to finding hidden messages that have been concealed in this way. Yes, it is called stick analysis which I tried to look up breaking up loosening of it's all very repetitive. It just means uncovering secret message right, so the ing upon the type of Ghana, ground there has been set, did did it use a different method to find the so looking about the modern version of second longer if he were really looking about ones and zeros digital information, so stick. Analysis is largely concerned with that, because of as the main way messages are sent. These days is through a digital fight. of some sort that too
outside view, looks like a normal file. There's nothing that seems remarkable about it. But if you were to analyze the actual digital information of that file, you would start to see patterns that would indicate something. Hanky is going yes and in sticking out so there are two steps to deciphering and the first is detecting it, which, if, if it is like a handwritten message or something like that- and it's very loud fairly obvious- you can do it without any special software and where it does happen soon. So much in the digital age. There disk analysis programmes that will just look at it for you yeah. You actually run your suspected secret message, so it could be Very simple, like a lot and a examples I see are photographs that have been uploaded to public forums. And the idea being that well, when it's in the public eye, no ones
the attention to it, because it's just something that we see all the time like. If you were to post a picture to Facebook, a lot to do yeah a lot of a lot of people. Do then because that's so common it doesn't tend to raise suspicion so first of all, someone has to know that there's something to look for right after first he suspicious that there's some form of communication going on. Then they have to start bring our houses communication happening and then they would have start targeting the various means of and one those might be photographs and they'd say alright. Let's take this image that was uploaded to whatever site, and let's run it through one of these disk analysis programmes and see if that comes up with anything that perhaps there is some indication that some things out of and it might be something that you looking at
would notice if you knew what to look for that's called perceptible noise. Sometimes if Audio visual files are slightly off. There might be perceptible noise in there. we're just be an indicator, something saying something's, not right. Now that can happen naturally, like that, just be a problem with the file and not not be an indication that there's anything super going on. Or it could be an indication that, in fact, some of the bits in that file have been altered in order to send a secret message in. In the best case of sticking our graffiti, you wouldn't have weird noises: Oreo started pixels. people say yeah. It would just be so subtle that you would never pick up on it and That's the reason why you need these disconnected programmes, so they can look for things.
At our below the perceptive level of human beings. So again, We often see the two working together makes a lot of so what a little bit about the history of steganography, because there are some gloriously awful and bloody stories me just just about them. So first, we gotta go to ancient Greece, which makes sense we're talking now we're using greek words. So it makes sense that that allow the earl- Cases involve greek stories and we're going to be talking a lot about her who they met five times I can only, but because I listened to the pronunciation and I wrote down a phonetic translation in our notes. That is not a joke. Auditors was agreed. Historian in the fifth, three b c e and wrote a lot about Greek
three and the history of the surrounding areas of Greece and in fact his writings recalled the histories yeah and Somehow we have to. We have to take some of this with a grain of salt, because Legend got mixed up with history quite a bit, certainly in fact there some of the familial connections makes in history. we're not necessarily accurate, so one of the big ones. In fact, the first one I have to talk about is one of those where the store He talks about a general named her pages who sent The Ghana Graham to Cyrus, was a king. Who was to become the king of kings of Persia, so that the project principle now the principles you know that's a video game which is fine, but not not something. We actually need the reference war as bodies
start. The other stories far blow your in fact, which is odd to think of, depending on which version of principles you played and how badly you played it. Cyrus, was going to be the the king of kings of Persia. So Persia was divided up into several kingdoms, and then you had a sort of an over king who saw over everybody like king, Arthur and in english law, sense. So Cyrus ARM was grandson, according to us, to another king of kings Ass, the Argus, and so her pages actually worked for us. So the August is this king of kings, and he has a dream, his dream. His daughter gives birth to a son, son grows up to depose off the so well. First, he ends up marrying his daughter off to a can of milk toast kind of guy someone that he thinks is our this guy's harmless. So any
all they have is not gonna be a threat to me and they have a son named Cyrus according to her auditors again other modern accounts suggest that Cyrus and asked the August we're not going father and grandson yeah they might have been related, but not like grandfather and grandson Cyrus ended up marrying Herodotus, which would have meant he would have married his own aunt, which was not, so are we possible, but not common so anyway. In the story, Cyrus is the grandson and ass. The August decides harpist needs to go out and kill. Cyrus ok is, though, does not really relish the thought of spilling royal blood, so he takes Cyrus any gives Cyrus to a shepherd and says. Look after this kid
racism as your own, and I will report back that Cyrus's debt attacking it seems like a really decent guy. At least at that point is oh, he goes by a he reports that Cyrus has died and years later, this finds out Cyrus's actually alive, so he punishes her pages in kind of a shakespearian awful way and that in the story of the August, It's her Pegasus son kills him jobs them up. serves them to her pages as a banquet hall. yes and then tells her pig is held by the way. I hope you, like your son, cause that's what you're eating Peggy supposedly then gathered up it remains and gave his son a burial. He was in obedience to the king outwardly, but in, We had decided that he had had enough and he wanted revenge, so he
to report to Cyrus. He ended up working very hard to get other leaders of Persia to turn against asiago and wait for just the right. I am to give Cyrus the signal that now is the time to attack, so it He did to send a message to Cyrus, saying we're ready to go when you are but as the August had guards all along the way. So how does he send the message? He gets a bunny. He gets a bunny hair, actually yeah. So quite a state is no they're, not nearly as cute as bunny rabbits, and this hair was not nearly as too because it was dead, the other they they have a guy. They cut the hair open insert the secret message into the hair stomach The hair back up and a messenger disguised as a huntsmen break. Does the hair to Cyrus and says you should cut off
then there's bunny rabbit and get what the delicious things inside are. and so Cyrus cuts open. The stitches gets. The message sees it's time to attack and that is how, according to Herodotus arrests goes and joins a revolution and overthrows osteologist, and then Cyrus becomes the king, so oh, that's a long way to go for that story, but is important to know all the elements to explain why are pages was trying to send a coded message in the first place or hidden. I'm so glad we have better ways to send hidden messages than in the stomachs of rabbits. Now yeah hey. This is Jonathan from the future. I've got a hidden message in this image: Albert. That says, we need to take a quick break, but we'll be right. Back this season at age and am not only can you shop all the latest trends. You can check into hotel Hennis a much needed escape open to all
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is to get more done with windows. Eleven pcs at windows, dot, com, slash, brings you closer, so here's a valid one. This is another popular soaring brought this this one involves a tyrant named. The years, which sounds like you're strangling a snake, their history Who is the ruler of Miletus and this guy was really useful to the king of Persia. The king of Persia and decided to invite him back to become a royal adviser, sounds pretty good me one investigators thought so too, but then eventually, You don't want to go back to being a tyrant of Malta's tired by the way. This necessarily mean evil ruler, but it did mean like having total authority over a region,
so he said he thought I want to go back to doing what I was doing before, but it would be treason for me to deny the king. So how do I get around this and comes up with an even more treasonous way to get around it. He decides the best way to get back to doing what he was doing before the two stage, a revolution back home and then tell the key. Hey! I need to go back there and squash this revolution before it gets out of hand because telling the king now is so much less worse than lying to the king right and telling so he decides. He needs to send this instruction to his nephew, who was in charge of Malta's Arista. And so how does he send the message? While he gets a slave which the Greeks had back, then and tat is where you shame, the slaves had tat, is the message on the slaves. Scalp then allows place hair to grow back then said
the slave to cigarettes. With the instruction to tell ignores hey, you need shave me and read my hat So that's exactly what happens. Aristocrats reads: the message starts a revolution against the Persians. Then is tells the king hey. This gonna be a problem, so just send me back and I will go and squish this right away and will solve this before it turns into a big problem and, of course, taking us here while adviser sure yeah. So history is heads on his way back. However, there are some, folks who a little suspicious. Of history. Epistoleus and his convenient revolution and so eventually, history years goes on the run because people are actually after him. Thinking that you know he's he's committed treason. yeah he has done that thing and so he ends up getting exiled and eventually to an island the pirate for a while and then he's eventually
captured by one of the king, a person's subjects who knows that if he sent his two years back to the king, the king will pardon it so just goes ahead and executed thirty years right then, and there, since the head of history, is to the king, saying hey, I caught them and killed them for you the king actually supposedly gave the head of history years, and will burial because he never suspected anything was up. He didn't believe his years could have committed any kind of treason against him. So yeah dumb. I guess nice you're nice a nice stories in ancient Greece and then another while other Herodotus to another. Her added a story I was about to mention it, and then I realized that I couldn't actually say his name. There was an excellent Greek named named Democritus and
he needed to warn the king of Sparta leant. Idas. The kings are seized. The first was going to attack them, so he took writing tablets which were would tablets in wax yeah, and you would scratch a message into the wax and instead he took off all the wax and scratched message into the wood and then recovered the tablets in wax, so that it looks like there are blank tablets and he said those to the king to warn him. But. Presently no one knew whether it getting these blinked tablets. They didn't necessarily know there was a mess Why are we going just we got plenty it I blitz. No one writes anything of use here in Sparta, supposedly the queen clean. I go figured out what it was said you got, you need to take the wax off. I bet there's a message under there and there were, but it didn't help them, because the Spartans were brutally defeated
If the story sounds familiar, is the story? Three hundred and two comic that's, essentially, that's the tale that three hundred Spartans who who try all the pass and managed to delay is there to you so that isn't of Greece ultimately would fail, but the Spartans were completely wiped out, though, or at least the the three hundred were completely wiped out. As a result, moving forward to roman times, Tacitus invented a way to use a predecessor of dice to hide messages his these dice, like things which a camera the name. Now it's like us, Astrology Ali, or something like that, but I know I've totally mangled. That's all apologize, but they have little holes drilled in them could string them together and in this case
Tacitus was using them to string them together and specific orders to relate different types of messages, but if anyone were set, then they just want like it was a toy you didn't want like. It was anything of significance, although they might play with it and most of them, that yeah. If you were to break the thread so that they were no longer threaded together in the proper way, then the message would be lost this by the way would end up having a specific name, a simmer ground, because it is being used as a non text based message so you don't translate into text so much? As you said, this series of symbols means this particular thing, you also have a guy named your try thing. Yes, in the middle ages. In the sixteenth century. Actually, who wrote a book? Titled stuck in. My group have still not repeal yes, which was a stag, Graham in and of itself. This I do not know which is pretty cool, yeah outwardly, it seemed
the a series of writings on magic, but in secret it contained a message on the treaties of stick. Now that's really cool that you're like okay, you gotta be smart enough to know that this is a book about secret messages because itself is a secret message. Yeah really interesting, and then we can skip ahead. I mean. Obviously, these have been used repeatedly and and multiple ways: there's another great example that during World WAR one, the german embassy in the United States sent to Berlin that used what called a knoll cipher, no five, are not very secure. It because once you know that there's a possibility. It's very easy to find them, but basically When you take the first letter of each word in a message and that spells a new message. So here's an example that often cited- I don't know that this was ever actually sent as a mess.
it's always used as an example. Here's the the full message, which was the carrier message. If you will, was presidents embargo ruling should have immediate notice, grave situation affecting international law statement Shadows ruin of many neutrals, yellow journals, unifying national excitement immensely, since they really had me until the yellow journals like I was following that message. I knew what they were trying to send. Well, it could have been talking about yellow journalism, but that's the difference. Thing anyway. You know why a german embassy would write about it, but at any rate, the secret message, if you take those first letters, says purse in sales. From in why New York June, first or June, I appreciate so Pershing was the? U S general, who led American, the american expeditionary forces in World WAR, one So this will be a message from German. The german embassy to Germany, saying hey this american
Earl is sailing out of New York on this date expect him to be in the in the European Theatre within several weeks that getting I will talk about some of the types of sticking other be because there is a whole bunch of yeah state If really any that you can hide a message inside something is technically steganography. So the sir just some examples. Really, it's not an exhaustive list. That would be impossible. For instance, there is the old greek ways we talked about in an history of hiding something inside or under. Something great example is in the second World war. The british secret service hid escaped kick pieces in monopoly games and sent them to the prisoners of war in Germany, along with Red Cross support, Yet so you get you get these of deliveries of your prisoner of war and the of the Germans would say our while. This is just a humanitarian aid or whatever, and as long as the keys the prisoners mollified and will go ahead and give them to them. Not
I think that they were supplying the prisoners with the very tools the prisoners might be able to use to break free, which is pretty interesting, employ when the prisoners break free did they have egg on their face. So oh the sun, the summer grams. I talked about earlier that the dice that are threaded together, that's just one example that could be in lots of different versions like I can agree. Be or signs or photographs, or even like the poor, smell of items on the desks. Let's say I've got. I can have a webcam set up on my desk, for example, so at people who log into the web could see me. You know, theoretically, just working at work like that's all I'm doing, but maybe depending upon where am I coffee is or depending upon where a certain stack of papers happened to be. That might be an actual message itself. So Ariel looking at the webcam might say: oh as its gonna go too many. Just having today, because I see whether the day the combination of stock
this. I dunno why I would secretly be telling you that, because all of your fans try and follow you yeah, that's it only by look wronging fancy. I may those tat were it is such a low profile place right, that's by the way, if you, from Atlanta or never been here, Manuel's tavern is a very popular spot for artists and and playwrights up the call fancied for years political figures. The President Obama came here recently and its this kind of its kind. I got like, I think of it like cheer. yeah it. It's really like cheers with chickens on the roof yeah the other chickens on the roof, though that's not that's, not a joke because they use their eggs for best. They do another example would be the Cardan grill. It sounds like a good restaurant. It does doesn't
it's a classic example, as first proposed in the fifteenth century. So here's how it works. You've probably seen this. So you take a sheet of clean paper or, in the case of the middle ages, parchment a set that down. You take a second sheet and you cut little holes in that sheet and strategic places you lay the they can shoot on top of the first sheet and then you write in your secret message in those holes using the holes is kind of like a almost like a stencil. And so it's only bits and pieces. Sometimes sometimes it might be a word. Sometimes it might just be a single letter, but you do that through using the the holes as your guide to write the secret message, then you take your stencil off. and you right in the right, you thought rest the space with a boring message, that means you know very little. In the grand scheme acts So only someone who would have a part, a comparable stencil, so something that they have a sheet of paper that has the same general holes cut out of it,
They could lay that, on top of the the full message and read the secret message, that's underneath I actually tried to make a carton grill a while back back when I was in school and do a secret message like that it is harder than I imagined it would be, because once you put your mesh messages, you then have to make sure the rest of your message lines up right. You have to make it make enough sense like how do you plan out the I stub your message so that you can do unless you were to create a message from the very beginning and then you create, a grill that fits on top of your existing message. That shows what which words are the most important and then you send it, but then gotta figure out. How do I get? How do I the grill. How do I get the the the stencil to the person. I need to send it to, because if I sent both then clearly, the jig is up now yeah, so it is a little tricky this next one you've got yeah this next one
I had to double check it because I didn't think it was possibly real, but people would knit Morse code into garments and then send those garments on the couriers for people to decipher and you'd think it was just like a a Nyt line of yeah. Just a pattern, just a pattern. Yeah on clothing. I think that's super cool. I want to start doing that when I have kids I'm going to knit Morse code into one her clothes, that'll be fantastic things like things like. Do your chores to your choice. If this child is found, then mix it well, that's a wrap. I like that, you expect spies to come across your children, because I can't think of any one or two typically uses Morse Code on our frequent basis. I liked the next one too, which is also very cool. The idea that, just through through formatting a document, you can create a secret message that you can add an extra space which most people don't notice
a lot of editing at my job, and so I often see extra spaces at before after a period before a certain word like for a high in or after a hyphen up, you can add those extra spaces before the important words and any word that you find that hasn't it space before it. That's part of your cipher nice. I've also seen where you could do things like subtle. Each stage the font, yes, He sunlight courier to courier new, which is at a casual glance. It looks the same, but if you're paying attention, you can tell the difference, and thus you put the important words in the different font, As long as the messages like as Your carrier message is long enough and yours, group message is short enough. People are probably not going to pick up on a day. You can also vaguely change the skew as well, although that one's a little bit more noticeable right right, so it's your some of these again can get pretty risky, your secret messages is this. Is
true in general. Right, though, the longer your carrier message, the more secure the secret is going to be assuming that the secret is not itself very long. If I have I'm trying to hide a secret message in a tweet. That's gonna be hard They only have a hundred forty characters to start with, and and if I am trying to hide a message and that then it has to be pretty small message. Otherwise, it's just going to look like a tweet and it would probably have to be a cryptogram yeah, where individual letters mean full things or a semi or or or like just a regular code where someone has a code book and they know, when I use this word that that means something else in that case, thou adopting more of a code than that than a secret message in this sense, but There are the ones too, there's also in this book, which is a thing people have actually used it for reals, and
Also, it's usually called sympathetic because you would of irregular message written out in normal ink, that would have a very boring no reason to raise suspicion. You write right, the actual secret. invisible kind of between the lines and the person who receives it would have to treat it. However, they need to treat it usually like adding a little heat or maybe adding a certain chemical to bring out the invisible ink so that you can make it legible and then you would be able to read the secret stuff and another way to hide messages would be through photography, yeah like the polo incident, which, far Stag inaugurated goes, is kind of like a semi ground where crew of the? U S, S, Pueblo was captured by North Korea, right before the Vietnam WAR, they were an electronic intelligent ship and they were forced to take propaganda photos. And in this
I began to photos. They all rested with their hands on their faces, are their shoulders and very nonchalant way, and it was actually a code for the. U S to decipher well must prove incredible really is so similar to what I was describing with the webcam, the idea of just having this. This foresight that you clearly you thought I had so there the person who sees it knows what the meaning is behind, whatever you're, in whatever the images is, and there there there are more complicated versions of that, for instance, there you can systematically change pixel colors, the correspond with letters in the alphabet and then only change like the first pixel, every square, centimeter or millimeter in the photo or every so many lines and people can get the message that way, though Yeah. That's definitely really very subtle, especially in all. If you use things like black and white photos. Where you can. You can change those things in their not called out as much because you could make it like us
that was going to be very dark. A much lighter gray if you know what to look for, then you could see the but otherwise you might just think. Oh, this is just poor. Developing or whatever it is, it's a greening of the photo, you could use an existing piece of text like a newspaper. This was used during the cold war, all the time where you would use like a pen to put tiny holes above important letters and the and so you would grab the newspaper hold it up, so you could see where the holes were, and that would give you the there's to spell out, or sometimes a full word to spell out whatever the secret message was. or you might use a dot with invisible ink. If you wanted to make sure people like could pick up the newspaper and hold it up and not see light coming through at strategic locations. Then, of course you would have to treat the the newspaper to whatever it was. That would bring the invisible ink out
It's really important and stick like their used in many different ways: yeah yeah there's you gotta see examples of this because I went to these spy museum, which is in Washington DC. and they had examples of micro, dots and micro. Dots are think of it. Like microfilm, it's tiny little bits of film that look like a period. That's how they are, and unless you are to hold it up and see that it was in fact film and not just a solid blob of ink, you would never is back to the be anything other than a punctuation mark. it can hold. Credible amount of information because, as you know, there their ways to enlarge photos with me about the old film style right. This doesn't this and you can do it digitally too, but we're talking old school so
There are ways where you could take a photo and then blow it up and blow it up and blow it up, so that you get like a poster size or larger. While there are also ways where you could shrink it down and shrink it down and shrink it down, and I was reading one way- the cuts so technical that I gave up on the chance of trying to even describe it. But ultimately they said it was two hundred and ten times smaller than the original photograph wow, and so you could take a picture of say a document top secret document and then you shrink it down to the size. So it looks like it's a you know a period you just cut out a little piece of the paper. You insert this in and to casual glance. It seems like it's just a regular sheet of paper with punctuation when you are in the right hands which might be the wrong hands to sitting alongside your on, then you can find out what
Actually there. This was a process that was created by a man named Emmanuel, Goldberg, ah and used it for spying and up, very popular, particularly among Soviet Union spies at the time, would imagine nowadays, if you used microdata in a digital format, it'll be a lot harder to detect cause. You couldn't hold up the paper and see that something was amiss. Yeah yeah. It was it's the The game has changed significantly and by this time. Obviously we're talking about something, a lot more subtle than a dead rabbit and thank goodness, but but sometimes we could have things that are just as irritating as maybe a dead rabbit such as spam agree disguising messages that you want to send as spam emails or nonsensical musings. Or what not are you do this by messing up the placement of the punctuation or the type of the fonts of the grammar of the message as a means to communicating
yeah? I love this that I actually saw an example of this, where someone used grammar as the key indicator. And so you would read the message and whenever you and a grammatical error that was actually an indicator that this is where you need to pay. Attention was kind of interesting well If you would think it would be easy to decipher, but with as much spam emails everybody gets nowadays, you don't even think to look for right, yeah you just especially if you were to broadcast this, so that it's not something that just one person gets because it and we're all used to getting that spam. Most of us would never even look twice at it. We would just see a spam message delete so you can. actually have security by sending it till watts of people, because then it looks like it's cortical logic spam. That seems like a weird they say, but that's bless were there now. Getting into the more modern versions where
this is where we need things like a disk analysis software in order to discover it. We have. Little bit more to say about steganography, but before we get to that, let's take another quick break now, this season at age. An m. Not only can you shop all the latest trends you can check into a hotel hennis a much needed escape open to all all age. An m is proud to unveil the delightful and unexpected hotel hennis in a brand new film starring, Gigi, Hadid, Gigi Hadid, says This is an more to those magical hotels that have been the site of so much creativity in the past. I had so much fun on SAT and I think that shows through in the film. The message is welcoming playful and escapist hotel Hennis as a place where everything is exaggerated, where stories can twist and turn and where fashion has no rules an Sophie Johannsen, the
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Has provided by Middlesex Federal savings. F, a member after I see terms and conditions apply. Windows eleven gives people new ways to get more done. Snap assist lets you organ as your open windows at once, with a click, multiple desktops, make it easier than ever to switch between work, school and everything else, plus a screen, you can actually touch means less typing, more crime eating windows. Eleven brings you closer to what you love discover more way, is to get more done with windows. Eleven pcs at windows, dot, com, slash, brings you closer so dismal files. Let's talk about these general this can refer to pretty much any kind of digital file like audio video images. Any of that sort of stuff. So We all know digital files are made up ultimately of strings of ones and zeros. I married yeah so
think some of those bits are more important than others. Not all bits are equal, some of those bits. Are not so important. So if you were to pick the least significant bits or Ls B You could do something called the least significant bit insertion, which is where you alter a bit, and by altering a series of bits you can create. ass it now. It takes several bits to make just one character in the alphabet. So you have to be very succinct with your messages, because the more of these you mess up, the more likely that it will be detect The ball by somebody who's paying really close attention, either close attention your activities or close attention to the file. So If you do it well, and you and you're very careful with it most
born, never going to notice- and this is what we talk about when someone posts an image to a public forum and there's a hidden, I search bits, never ever network yeah, and Generally speaking, you want to go if you're making one of these you want to go with a lossless format as opposed to lossy compressed versions, because, technically you are normally create this. This message in the losses, fine style, and put it in there and then allow it to be compressed so it's a lossless format. That then, is compressed. You don't lose any information that way these russian algorithms are very good at keeping the original information attacks. That way, you know your message is not gonna get altered, law See formats the whales see formats work as they work for information that doesn't seem important and then a drop it that's why the ways they compressed the file size. So if you put a secret message in I'll. That's then going to be compressed in this way.
your secret message could be part of the stuff that gets dropped or altered, and then you can't communicate. Oh, if you do want to post a picture with a secret message on Facebook, you should use it instead, which I take right unless you insist on pronouncing it Jeff, in which case I don't even wanna talk to you did I say that you should get up thinking, that's the way I pronounce it too. I dont cause it if you could, tea at the end of that? It's a gift? Yes and g stance. a graphic. That's a good, sound knowledge document, but that's again, not the only type of digital information that can be altered. Right yeah, I mean you can also alter the audio files. I think we talked about this already by yeah, but not just not just digital audio like not just a m three, but even voice call voice over internet protocol calls
the there's also water market. Yes, there is digital watermarking, which is used to protect intellectual property, and he in by embedding information like the creator and the copyright and etc into the file, and in that way If people tried to claim it is their own, they can say no if my watermark see it's got on my little information in their sure they so use digital world water marking a method called finger printing where they put a different. You need watermark on each copy of the document information they send. Out and that way, if someone tries to copy it or send it out themselves to people you shouldn't get it, they can say. Oh all of these have that unique, watermark So we have sent a Bobby's in trouble, because this is the version that we sent to Bobby and everyone I've got a different. Digital watermarks. We narrowed it down, we know who is at fault or so who was a compromise? Their security might have been compromised. That's really cool
yeah, then we got subliminal channels, which is not probably what you think it is it isn't like, in essence, is secretly movie for playing my music back where yet another like that. It's the John is dead, misunderstood, as none of that I know this is something that was proposed in nineteen. Eighty four by a mathematician and cryptographer named Gustavus, a summons and sevens poet propose something I'll the prisoners problem and it's a thought, experiment this away the thought experiment work. Ok, you got two accomplices. Who are captured during the to commit a crime and Bob and usually Alice actually, so we got half of them already but jacket and there put into the same jail but others put in one cell was on a cell on the opposite end of the jail, so there's no way for them to communicate directly the warden
told hey these to want to be able to talk what, but how do we do that? And the words is all right. Here's deal you will be allowed to communicate to each other. But I get to see everything you send to one another. So that way, if there's He messages about trying to break out of jail. I'm going to get it immediately and you're going to be stopped. That's a nice word because I just feel like he has can't talk to each other deal with it when he gets nicer, actually because Jen, say all right, but we want to make sure that our messages are genuine. Lay coming from the other person- and we want In other words, we want to make sure that you, Mister Wharton, aren't going in and messing up our messages, so we want to be able to authenticate that are, just come from each other, so we have to. We want to be able to come up with a way to say. it's essentially a signature to say yes, this actually came from Bob or yes, this actually came from Jack and the warden says well, alright, if you
if you agree to my terms, and said, was, if you're willing to give up a little of that authentic haitian security. You Take some of the authentication message but say it's one fifth, long as your actual message still be really long for authentication. But let's say so let's say that, then you change some of that authentication, which normally would look like it's random, like it's supposed to random. So that way you know it's it's not if it's predetermined in a way that everyone knows about. Like everyone knows the key and the algorithm, then there's no other nation there. But instead of it actually being random. It just looks random and you've actually changed some of the authentication message so that that's where the secret message. It's it's not within the body of the actual message. It's in the authentication
I was just a thought experiment, but turned out that that's actually the way. A lot of this is a lot of sticking agrifuels happens today. To is that it ends up being, in the often occasion can allay the ditch watermark rather than in the message itself, and that is an example, another example of how a stick and aggravating cryptography work. yeah, because often is all about cryptography. So it's it's. killing the two. So let's talk about people who actually use the stuff, not a big, surprise, spies, yeah, that's it! big one, in fact again the spy museum. I saw example after example of this kind. You ve never been to the spy museum by the way. If you ever go to Washington D C, I recommended hurricane going early, because it's a very it's it's a museum that fills us with kids at kids are great.
despite what I say about them, but they they do, make it difficult to maneuver through the museum and see every it sounds like a lot of the stuff in the spy museum might be pretty technical the kid yeah it can definitely go over a kid's head there's a lot of reading, because there are a lot of of descriptions that explain what the various devices and pictures and everything what they mean and there's some very interest videos but for kids they'd, be really boring so it's one things where, like the idea of spies, is really super sexy and exciting well, James Bond kids are going to have fun, but ultimately I think you need to be like a teenager or older, maybe not necessarily teenager but like eleven or twelve, to really kind of start thinking. Oh, this is kind of cool younger. I think he gets lost on you, although they have some cool interactive stuff too, that you don't get to play with like shoot guns or anything that you don't get to play with. Sugata
but you do get to assume a secret identity who they give you a secret identity, and you have to remember certain facts about yourself so if you ever stopped and questioned, you can answer with your cover. So if you forget your cover, your caught at San so First of all, I want to do that so here's an example of spies who use technocracy. Two thousand and nine, and two thousand and ten- the FBI arrested ten covert russian leap, her agents who had been communicating in law, four ways, including steganography. They be. I think those photos that was talking about same sort of thing they would post photos to public forums which, in fact that included the secret messages that could be picked up if you ran them through analysis. But if you use that soft, you could pick him up, but otherwise you private notice. They also used other things like at this point. And they would do secret bag swaps like clay
Six spiced awfully we'll meet the trade station. I will give you bag, you would walk way, get ready. They got discovered because of the thirty zero posting right. Well, and the fact that the photos, had the running through a particular piece of software to decode what the message was to pull out the the letters that were hidden in these photos right, because one of the problems with with binary code is we humans? We don't read it so well now. So that's what we need software to be able to pull that stuff and say I here are the bits there are important, here's what translates into so. Well one of the things they needed was security to make sure people couldn't access the the software that would decode everything. So they had a password that all of them had to share it was the same where they were type in to others. To allow them to something- and it was a twenty character. Long password, that's pretty secure! That is
except someone wrote it down. So the FBI gets hold of the written password by the way, If you write your password down, finds it guess what you're, not here here- how long your password, air or haven't upper and lower case letters you throw in there. So I found the the password they were able to intercept messages. They were to round up these ten sleeper agents and ultimately they were exchanged a prisoner swap with Russia. Russia had four prisoners, three of whom, been accused of high treason, all of whom were russian citizens. but they had all been colluding in some way or another or been accused of colluding with United, it's or the United Kingdom. So these We swapped out for the ten that were found in America and it was, well done kind of quietly, because there were still I mean there still are today. Tensions between the United States and Russia and no one wanted to make the
worse yeah man. Could you imagine being one of the ten agents and your worth not even being half a person? Well not only that, but those ten people who went back to Russia. They were not technically put in prison, but they were detained for weeks for debris. So things do not go well for them? Not for all of the many were now, especially probably not for the one he wrote down I swear it right. So then we have examples and military and government. Now governments traditionally aren't crazy about Stepan, Arkadyevitch software getting out into the wild because they don't want people to be able to use it especially foreign countries. There actually have been laws put in place to keep us from sending strong and I swear overseas yeah. There's there's been a lot of debate in government about whether or not it should be legal to export or encryption software. and there's been a lot of argument on either case and not that the government
wasn't crazy about having public, it's about this or having arguments. On the public record, because that would mean people would find out that such a thing even air They were worried that even people finding out that such software was possible would create more incidents of people so there was probably but it was a. It was a sort of a catch twenty two, the other like. While we need to talk about this, but we can't talk about it because of me, we talked about it. They'll know that it exists. I have a it's from a nineteen ninety two meeting about how to handle this. That said, Stan. Shall amount of material is not appropriate for a public meeting. That's exactly one time out, and we can't debate this because of its own.
for the record. It will cause problems now, despite that there, ultimately there will be all allowances for exporting this encryption software, because businesses, your own business, and we want our businesses to basic here yeah. So then we have terrorists. Who also have you stuck in. There was the reports after the nine eleven attacks, that Al Qaeda had been using steganography techniques to communicate. They were actually Possibly using pornography you're hiding their messages there, because who would think to work for secret messages in that lassie out here glass, Larry, very much so yeah, and also they they were thought to be less likely to have used them because it goes against their very worldview. But that's what made it the perfect place to hide them and people were worried that maybe they got the third tools from us. right yeah. They were worried that they got the encrypt. tools from those
same companies that had argued that they should be allowed to export their products and in fact it created a lot of soul searching on the parts of those people. They said well, Are we responsible and ultimately they came up with the conclusion that even if a ban had been put in place even if they had never been allowed to sell their products. Some one else would have come up with the same thing, because there was a need, and so once you I didn't. If I need someone's gonna, come up with solutions that- and there are people whose and sufficient send all the time, just just the challenging authority aspect of it. Like a wish,
be using this or giving it to other people. So we're going to right right, yeah, there's the whole argument of information wants to be free. Yes, and with that you would say like a while. If you're the harder you try to keep information away from people, the harder people will try to make sure they get that information by having encryption software go out to foreign places and being developed in in other places than the US means that we have drive to create better encryption right and d Corruption and decrypts yeah yeah, so it's it. Actually it pushes the it pushes the art forward and the something we also see an artificial intelligence where we see as one of security gets better. Then we'll find new ways to make that security vulnerable and then the security gets better and while individual attacks are terrible, or individual Ike vulnerabilities are terrible. The over
a story is that stuff gets better over time, but that's it. You that's a hard view to take depending upon this. The particulars, in this case a very hard won the day. also writers and journalists, have you stuck sometimes just to entertain like up there. The Sky Brown, Charlie, no Dan, Oh yeah, he wrote, he wrote a couple of books like angels and demons and Da Vinci Code, though said Da Vinci's notebook. That's totally different. Now, but really good yeah yeah, but some were familiar with their work there, but it's not the same. It's not Santa, they might have messages in their music it will. I'm sure there are. There are some price of very important messages and things like the MAGIC castle in the sky somewhere in the title of the. long. But yes, the Dan Brown, of course very famous for writing these books, and there are lots of examples of steganography. In fact, the key plot points revolving around
steganography and various kinds of religious, iconography and other elements to remember it. Demons. I think it was ancient demons where I got irritated by one of them, because a brand like as as it I think you would brand an animal with heat up and I like leave eyes are right and if it's, old out Illuminati, and then you discovered that if you turned it one hundred and eighty degrees off other words, if you turn it upside down, it's still spelled Illuminati and then the suggestion was because it was because the way the the fire was designed and the the way it was. What was that, only someone with the secret illuminati knowledge could ever make this thing, and I thought that's obviously crap because you made it again brow for this to happen. So
I dont know how you could suggest that only one human being with or only one group of human beings would be clever enough to do this. That's demonstrably false, but anyway that's fiction. It was meant for Yasmine to be a good story, also artists, you very important in our particularly in the old ways where you had to hide a message within something you know, and sometimes don't read her team at suppose. It was done for specific purposes to hide things. I had heard that defend. She had a lot of secret message. his artwork yeah. We we hear that from DE himself, sometimes Ariel and I have both worked for the Georgia renaissance. That's one another! A mutual friend of ours plays a young Da Vinci very well so, if you ask him about a secret messages, he has holier yes, responses for that, but the the
What you're, alluding to, of course, that there are a lot of theories or, I should say, hypotheses about secret messages, hidden in things like the last supper. Yes, because one of the most famous paintings De Vinci ever produced, and, of course, the Davinci Code ended up talking a lot about that, obviously I the hypotheses I saw, which was interesting, was put forward by an I t, guy in information information technology professional. Who had created a mirror image of the I suppose so essentially took like imagine. You have Photoshop and you copy the image, but then you flip it. So now it's it's inverted. The other and then you make it translucent and then you lay it back down on top of the original image. So now you got this. Doubled image on top of one another, Look at all the interesting things that pop up. When you do this, there were things
there's on either side that were said to look like night Templar, there was in the center in front of Jesus, there appeared to be a chalice, is perhaps it's the holy GRAIL. And this kind of thing that there appeared to be a figure standing behind Jesus holding a baby The lot of other elements that were supposedly brought to light That raises the question one. How could the then she have done this himself. Now he was now Her mirror writing where he could write with both instead, he could right right to left and left to right techniques. He would have had to have painted two pictures left to right and right to left at the same time and lay them over each other. You'd would have to paint two identical pictures. yeah and who would ever find out about this? I mean there's no waiting to see the message. The whole point of steady progress is to communicate to someone else. If
No one knows that there's a message there and no one knows how to get that message: you're, not communicating now you're, just shouting you are at mean he could have put that message in there. Just to not put a message in there but put something in there to seem like a message just message: people that's possible, but you must art. Historian can dismiss these. Various hypotheses doesn't mean that they're all false it may mean. The other may have been things divinity through into some either is catch is or as paintings or whatever were either just amusements or they weren't intended to be anything secret It was just something to he incorporated into the design it's possible, and then you know, depending upon the guy, Probable Da Vinci was was a bit of an eccentric, so, as of is there an article about this on? Yes, I would say the article is is how the Da Vinci code doesn't work.
so, if you want to know more about that, yeah there's also an article about. Are there hidden messages in the last supper? We have articles on both of those things, so you should definitely check those out at how stuff works. Dot com there are other examples like one of my favorites is mad magazines fold in which was hated by the writer and artist Alger, Jaffe. Guess who created originally in sixty four sixty four, been in practically every mad since then and if you ve never seen a fold in on mad magazine, then I'm talking about the actual magazine, not the television series, not mad tv and not a digital cop. No doubt you need them in the physical one. It is the end I back cover is the folded and it has two points in your post to fold one point were to the second point and It creates a new image. So when you look at it normally it's one image as the setup for a joke.
When you do the fold, then it's the punchline to that joke, and usually it's a twist on whatever the big picture is naturally Jaffe said if I didn't have to worry about. The big picture first the little picture? I could turn out like twelve of these a day but getting them to Work together takes a lot more planning and the way he did it. Drew them all by hand on service that did not fold wow. So it had to look right when it was folded, but he, while he was drawing it cut and folded to make sure it was working. After after I encountered my first followed in a mad magazine, I actually went into a where's Waldo book and tried to do it in there and that didn't work now now didn't find Waldo any faster. No, I didn't find any secret punchline as little disappointed, however, ruin a where's Waldo book. So there's that
another man magazine contributor, Sergio Aragon, is he used to draw a comic book called grew the wanderer, which was about very cartoony if you've ever seen, Sergio Aragon as his art style. You know it's cartoony and it was about a buffoonish barbarian character, very dim, witted character named GRU G r O, and very silly, but he would hide a message in every comic book, usually said this is the secret message or something like good job. You found this Message, but it would always be incorporated into the artwork in some way like in some cases, it would be written into the scroll work on a really elaborate fret board for loot, something like that. So you would have to really look for it and again If you didn't know, there was a message there, you probably we would have seen it. I feel, like a lot of colleagues, have done that hearing there. If you look really closely confined. I know there are some comics who hide their name yeah in pictures and they
work as well, but there are other people who use them too. Yeah, like system administrators and just to make encryption extra secure, like we've talked about before with the authentication codes and then like people who just want to protect their I shall property you can even do it for your own personal journal of. If you re in a diary and you dont unable to read it, you can yeah. I read what you really want to say: you can hide it in their rights stuff that you right could be in whatever, but the actual meaning the things that you truly want to preserve for yourself. You can hide away from from p prying eyes. So. If you you know, if you're, if you're, tired of losing that little key to your lockable journal, I know I gave up years ago. I have no idea. What's in that book, for that reason, left and probably my past as a shady one at best, so that wrap up this discussion about sticking under the one it is who uses it? What goes into it?
It is a fascinating field. I mean again the idea while creating a way to communicate without anyone ever being aware that it was a a a an intentional communication is. Is I mean it's kind of kind of odd It really is and the numerous ways that people have come up with to do taken is it's mine. I am not nearly that creative, though I what mostly, I dont have a lot of secret messages to send the people, so I don't have a whole lot of occasion to think on it, but you It really does show people's ingenuity to come up with new ways to hide things. I hope you enjoy that classic episode of text up back from twenty fifteen. If you have suggestions for topics I should tackle in future episodic, or maybe you want to follow up to something that you heard in a classic episode. Let me know let way to do that is to reach, on twitter. The handle over the show is tech, stuff, H S, w I'll talk to you again.
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Transcript generated on 2022-04-02.