Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

FC: NYT says terrorist messages "may lurk" online, offer few facts

------- Forwarded message follows ------- Date sent: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 13:51:25 -0800 (PST) From: Declan McCullagh <> To: Subject: FC: NYT says terrorist messages "may lurk" online, offers few facts Send reply to:

[Let's see. In this NYT article, some unnamed French guy is quoted, lots of downloads are cited, and some apparently-encrypted images on eBay were reported. But there's no hard info. On a crypto list, one fellow writes in response to the article: "What's so frustrating about this is that it is quite possible that high quality stego is being used out there; how would we know? But in the absence of facts, the media picks up the most scary sounding info and leads with it. I normally write letters to newspapers when I read dumb stories like this (and sometimes they publish them!), but I don't even know what to say this time." --Declan]

---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2001 10:32:56 -0800 From: Mark Hefflinger <> To: Subject: FYI: NYTimes on terrorists/stego

This from the 'Science Times' section...

(graphic detailing stego process on images) tml

October 30, 2001 Veiled Messages of Terrorists May Lurk in Cyberspace By GINA KOLATA he investigation of the terrorist attacks on the United States is drawing new attention to a stealthy method of sending messages through the Internet. The method, called steganography, can hide messages in digital photographs or in music files but leave no outward trace that the files were altered.

Intelligence officials have not revealed many details about whether, or how often, terrorists are using steganography. But a former French defense ministry official said that it was used by recently apprehended terrorists who were planning to blow up the United States embassy in Paris.

The terrorists were instructed that all their communications were to be made through pictures posted on the Internet, the defense official said.

The leader of that terrorist plot, Jamal Beghal, told French intelligence officals that he trained in Afganistan and that before leaving that country for France, he met with an associate of Osama bin Laden. The plan was for a suicide bomber to drive a minivan full of explosives through the embassy gates.

The idea of steganography is to take advantage of the fact that digital files, like photographs or music files, can be slightly altered and still look the same to the human eye or sound the same to the human ear.

The only way to spot such an alteration is with computer programs that can notice statistical deviations from the expected patterns of data in the image or music. Those who are starting to look for such deviations say that their programs are as yet imperfect but that, nonetheless, some are finding widespread use of steganography on the Internet. For national security reasons some of these experts do not want to reveal exactly what they find, and where.

"Quite an alarming number of images appear to have steganography in them," said one expert who has looked for them, Chet Hosmer, the president and chief executive of WetStone Technologies in Cortland, N.Y. <snip>

Mark Hefflinger Editor Digital Media Wire 323 654 9473 (WIRE) 323 654 9483 (fax)

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