Answers to Reader Questions: Steganography
"Can you explain steganography in an way that makes sense to someone who doesn't understand cryptography?"
Well, we'll do our best!
Steganography is one "old school" method of transmitting messages. It means “hidden writing”. Steganography in the digital age involves hiding a message within the data of a picture or other file. Consider if you will the 256 color palette (for simplicity's sake). If each pixel is definable as one of those colors, one can alter the color of individual pixels to “write” a message. The intended reader needs a means then of comparing an incoming picture (for sake of argument, let's say of a cat) to an original. The difference is the message.
If you are on the other side of the equation, and you can try here to seek out what steganographers are hiding. Stegdetect is an automated tool for detecting steganographic content in images.
(example auf Deutsch, but the video gives you an idea how this works)
After all, nothing is perfect and what can be hidden can be (usually) found. Through the use of algorithms, one can winnow out files that likely contain examples of steganography. Other tools that may interest the steg-curious.
The mass of data online regarding steganography is truly staggering. It appears to me that much that is out there is by people who are not native speakers of American English. This is not that hard a hurdle to deal with. I suggest this youtube link, as it is more of an undergraduate level discussion that covers history and mechanics of steganography by someone with native fluency in American English:
Steganography is problematic in that if you are not the intended recipient, you are pretty much then going to have to screen ALL files, triage them and spend your valuable, limited time on the most promising. It is akin to hiding a few grains of sand on the beach, but you have to look at all of them to be sure you did not miss one.
Steganography is made even more problematic if file subjects are popular, like “cats”.
It is obvious after a little pondering that steganography can exist in pretty much any file type. It can even be analog, if you use some imagination.
The topic of steganography is an interesting one and deserving of your time and bandwidth. If for no other reason than to understand just how it works, to expand your technical knowledge... but mainly, to de-mystify what may be presented in the news by the talking heads as something scary. It is said that fear is the mind killer, I hope that in writing this very brief article that I have provided enough information to get you started on your own program of self-education on this topic.
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