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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Systems management and web analytics firm NetIQ Corp has released two security updates designed to help IT managers detect the Camera/Shy steganography tool, released last week by hacker activist group, Hacktivismo.

Camera/Shy is a Microsoft Internet Explorer-based stenographic encryption tool that enables users to publish sensitive information by embedding it within ordinary gif image files, and also to detect and extract data that has been hidden using the tool.

Designed with automatic invisible cache and built-in history cleaning to leave no trace of its use, Camera/Shy was released under the open source General Public License by Hacktivismo, an offshoot of the Cult Of The Dead Cow hacker group, at the H2K2 Conference in New York on July 13.

Hacktivismo claims that the tool has been developed to enable the freedom of speech of democracy and human rights activists operating behind national firewalls, and has dedicated it to the memory of Wang Ruowang, the dissident Chinese intellectual who was expelled from the Chinese communist party in 1987 and died in December 2001.

"Although not all of us are Americans, we share the fundamental ideals of the Constitution of the United States, especially freedom of speech," said Hacktivismo founder Oxblood Ruffin. "Camera/Shy is a first small step in sharing that privilege."

Critics have raised fears, however, that the tool could be used by terrorist groups to exchange information and plan attacks against government institutions, or for the undetected transfer of obscene material or sensitive corporate information.

It is this last aspect of Camera/Shy's potential misuse that San Jose, California-based NetIQ is attempting to combat with the updates to its Security Analyzer and Security Manager tools. "Camera/Shy permits the hiding and viewing of sensitive or incriminating information inside an innocuous looking picture file and allows even novice hackers to send either obscene or dangerous data without detection by existing security solutions," said the company in a statement. "This could result in sensitive corporate and personal data being exposed to third parties thereby increasing corporate legal liability."

The company has responded by issuing a vulnerability signature update for Security Analyzer that enables administrators to detect Camera/Shy on corporate servers and workstations and eliminate it, as well as a rule update for Security Manager that enables administrators to automatically detect the launch of the Camera/Shy process and terminate it in real time.

The fact that NetIQ has been able to release software that detects and prevents Camera/Shy so quickly will be of concern to Hacktivismo and also privacy experts, who had warned human rights activists not to underestimate the surveillance expertise of government institutions around the world to detect its use.

© Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.

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