From James Bond to Johnny English, the movies give us the impression that spies are top of the tree when it comes to money-no-object espionage technology. But that doesn't seem to have been the case with the 10 people charged by the FBI last week over long-term deep-cover spying. They seem to have been living way down the techno food chain.
According to the FBI's two affidavits, the suspects used steganography--a form of message concealment--to hide messages inside online pictures. They also used customised wireless software to transfer files covertly between laptops and deleted sensitive information from their encrypted hard drives. And they used shortwave radio to contact Russia. Just what you'd expect spies to do, but with all these technologies they blundered in ways that made the FBI's job easier.
Their use of easily detectable picture steganography--hiding text data unnoticeably by subtly changing the digital pixel brightness or colour values in an image--has a leading expert in that field of research baffled. "Using picture steganography is pretty outdated," says Wojciech Mazurczyk of the network security group at Warsaw University of Technology in Poland.
From New Scientist
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