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Engineers Battle Age-Old Tactic in Information Warfare Defense

Engineers Battle Age-Old Tactic in Information Warfare Defense

Air Force News Release

Rome, New York -- (AFPN) December 3, 1999 -- It all sounds so Greek; steganography…

Engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate are working with researchers from Wetstone Technologies Inc., a small New York computer security firm, to address a high-tech threat with origins dating back more than three millennia.

"The word 'steganography' is derived from Greek and means 'covered writing.' It is a military communications tactic that has been around since ancient times," said John C. Faust, program manager in the directorate's Defensive Information Warfare Branch.

"During the era of the Roman Empire, military commanders would shave a messenger's head, write a message on the sheared scalp and, once the hair grew back, send the messenger through enemy lines."

"The concern in the computer age is that you can actually embed messages, data or code in images," Faust explained. "If a computer picture has 256 different colors, just a minute change in color is not perceptible to the human eye. A person could embed a hidden message, a challenge to computer security or even classified information in a picture of their dog or cat -- or a very innocuous photo from their family vacation."

Free software is currently available on the Internet that allows computer users to implement steganography technology for covert communications within a photograph. The goal is security through obscurity as opposed to encryption, where someone intercepting the communication is aware that data is being sent but it is not decipherable.

Ironically, scientists and engineers in the directorate's Information and Intelligence Exploitation Division have several on-going projects to develop such technology for military communications using digital watermarking embedded within photographs.

For those in the defensive information warfare field, however, the goal is to unmask this hidden data -- which could carry a computer virus or mask critical information changes in a system without the user's knowledge.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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