Feeds

Research slaps crypto-banning Feds

Return to your Ewok Villages, eBay bidders - it's safe

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

While America's own fundamentalists - led by US Attorney General John Ashcroft - prepare the most draconian assault on Americans' civil liberties since the second world war, their very own causus beli seems to be vanishing.

The enormous increase in surveillance has been justified by claims that terrorists are using cryptography, and in particular steganography: the art of hiding information. USA Toady has run a series of articles on the theme, all predictably quoting 'anonymous' security sources, describing how messages are passed hidden in picture innocuous picture files on sites such as eBay.

Or maybe, not so innocuous. The tabloid even managed to score a tasteless bullseye last week with an article that combined pornography, cryptography, terrorism and sport in the same article. For any readers who doubted the message, it was illustrated with a picture of /bin/laden himself.

But steganography isn't nearly as widespread a threat as you'd believe.

A research paper published a fortnight before the attacks on US civilians and made public this week has discovered no examples of steganographic content on eBay whatsoever.

Having exhaustively examined two million images on eBay, not one was found to contain steganographic content, according to academics Niels Provos and Peter Honeyman, who've published the paper at the University of Michigan's website.

15,000 of the two million images were deemed to have some form of steganographically-encrypted content by the JPIIhide program. But after subjecting the images to dictionary attacks, not a single hidden message was discovered. The researchers discuss, and dismiss, the possibility that strong passwords were being used. In short, they conclude, there is no significant use of steganography on the Internet.

Put in context, this research could simply prove that terrorists don't use eBay to as a source for populating their model Ewok Villages.

But more seriously it rubbishes one of the primary reasons for cracking down on personal privacy in the US.

The paper, available in Postscript or PDF formats (and rendered in that spidery font that cryptographers seem to love) is a 800KB download here [PDF]. ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.