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[FYI] (Fwd) FC: NSA, Pentagon, police fund research into steganograp

------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent:      	Tue, 20 Feb 2001 11:11:41 -0500
From:           	Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
To:             	politech@politechbot.com
Subject:        	FC: NSA, Pentagon, police fund research into steganography detection
Send reply to:  	declan@well.com


   Secret Messages Come in .Wavs
   by Declan McCullagh (declan@wired.com)

   2:00 a.m. Feb. 20, 2001 PST
   FAIRFAX, Virginia -- Neil Johnson has a job that's nothing if not
   unusual: He investigates how to uncover concealed messages embedded
   in sound and video files.

   A researcher at Virginia's George Mason University, Johnson is one
   of a small but growing number of digital detectives working in the
   field of computer steganalysis -- the science of detecting hidden

   "I analyze stego tools," said the 32-year-old security specialist
   who is the associate director of GMU's Center for Secure
   Information Systems. "I try to find out what can be detected or
   disabled. I see what their limitations are."

   The tools he's talking about include programs such as Steghide,
   which can embed a message in .bmp, .wav and .au files; and Hide and
   Seek, which works with .gif images.

   Most computer-based steganography tools have one thing in common:
   They conceal information in digitized information -- typically
   audio, video or still image files -- in a way that prevents a
   casual observer from learning that anything unusual is taking

   The surprising news, according to Johnson and other researchers:
   Current stego programs don't work well at all. Nearly all leave
   behind fingerprints that tip off a careful observer that something
   unusual is going on.

   Johnson's work on steganalysis may seem obscure, but it has
   important law enforcement and military applications. The National
   Security Agency and police agencies have underwritten his research
   -- his center's graduate program at GMU is even certified by the

   The Pentagon funds related research at other institutions, and the
   Naval Research Laboratory is helping to organize the fourth annual
   Information Hiding Workshop in Pittsburgh from April 25 to 27.

   Earlier this month, news reports said U.S. officials were worried
   that operatives of accused terrorist Osama bin Laden now use
   steganographic applications to pass messages through sports chat
   rooms, sexually explicit bulletin boards and other sites. That
   complicates the NSA's mission of "sigint," or signals intelligence,
   which relies on intercepting communications traffic.


   WetStone's "Steganography Detection and Recovery Toolkit" is being
   developed for the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York.
   The project overview, according to the company, is "to develop a
   set of statistical tests capable of detecting secret messages in
   computer files and electronic transmissions, as well as attempting
   to identify the underlying steganographic method. An important part
   of the research is the development of blind steganography detection
   methods for algorithms."

   Gordon said the effort arose from a study the Air Force
   commissioned from WetStone on forensic information warfare in 1998.
   The company was asked to identify technologies that the Air Force
   needed to guard against and it highlighted steganography as one of

   In addition to the NSA and the eavesdrop establishment, military
   installations, government agencies, and private employers could be
   affected by steganography. An employee or contractor could send
   sensitive information via e-mail that, if hidden, would not arouse


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