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[FYI] (Fwd) 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 <declan@well.com>
To:             	politech@politechbot.com
Subject:        	FC: NYT says terrorist messages "may lurk" online, offers few facts
Send reply to:  	declan@well.com

[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 <mark@digitalmediawire.com>
To: declan@well.com
Subject: FYI: NYTimes on terrorists/stego

This from the 'Science Times' section...

(graphic detailing stego process on images)

October 30, 2001
Veiled Messages of Terrorists May Lurk in Cyberspace
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

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
Digital Media Wire
323 654 9473 (WIRE)
323 654 9483 (fax)

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