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German Authorities Find Al Qaeda Plans Disguised In Porn 332

Posted by timothy
from the will-just-be-in-the-other-room-looking-for-more dept.
According to CNN, which credits Hamburg-based newspaper Die Zeit, German investigators have uncovered a trove of more than 100 Al Qaeda documents recovered from a "digital storage device" (and memory cards) which were found hidden in the underpants of Austrian citizen Maqsood Lodin, who had recently traveled to Pakistan. The documents "included an inside track on some of the terror group's most audacious plots and a road map for future operations." Among these future plots: "[S]eizing cruise ships and carrying out attacks in Europe similar to the gun attacks by Pakistani militants that paralyzed the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008." The documents were reportedly neither in plain view nor simply encrypted, but instead steganographically embedded in a pornographic video.
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German Authorities Find Al Qaeda Plans Disguised In Porn

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  • by Lucas123 (935744) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:17AM (#39857551) Homepage
    They seem to love stuffing things down their pants, from bombs to porno-packed digital storage. This eventually will not turn out well for the propagation of their cause.
    • It's a Trap!!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tharsman (1364603) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:31AM (#39857725)

      We all know these religious zealots hate pornography! This must mean the reason they are doing this is instead to terrorize US citizens!!! How? From now on the TSA will request all pornography in your laptop or smartphone be carefully analyzed, frame by frame, before you board your flight!!! They may simply force you to trash your smartphones, laptops and tablets just like they do with your coke!

      Conspiracy Theory B:
      This was hoaxed by the TSA themselves so they have legal reasons to confiscate cool looking laptops, new top of the line smart phones, and expensive tablets!

      • by hoggoth (414195) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @12:16PM (#39858319) Journal

        I'll take CCTV cameras on every corner.
        I'll take warrantless monitoring of my email and phones.
        I'll take radiation scanners at every airport.

        But they can pry my porn from my cold dead fingers.

      • by Thud457 (234763) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @12:18PM (#39858331) Homepage Journal
        One time I was smuggling pr0n into Germany steganographically hidden in some made up terrorist plans.
        Unfortunately, I had way more porn than plans.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by cayenne8 (626475)
        I'm trying to picture what muslim pr0n actually is...or how one would even KNOW it was porm??

        I mean, you have some films of muslim chicks, covered from head to toe in those burka things....and have to imagine them nekkid underneath?!?

        Also, and this is purely my best guess. Not sure I'd want to see them. The men all insist on having those long scraggly beards. I have to guess under the burkas, the muslim chicks are a bit too hairy for my liking. I'm talking 70's porn type hairy, where you'd need a machete

        • Re:It's a Trap!!!! (Score:4, Informative)

          by f3rret (1776822) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:19PM (#39859797)

          I'm fairly certain muslim porn is just regular porn, we all like the naked ladies.

        • That brings up another question...muslims have food restrictions right? Can they have oral sex legally in their religion?

          I presume you're being facetious, but the topic actually came up in an article I was reading recently (in Slate, I think) about the life of women in a Bangladesh brothel and their conflict with the local clergy. The older women advise the younger women (sort of a master/padawan thing) that if they don't wish to engage in oral sex, to tell their customers that they refuse to do that because their mouths are used to recite the verses of the Koran.

        • by bartoku (922448) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @07:45PM (#39863169)
          Instead of up skirt shots, it was a bunch of pictures of ankles peaking out from underneath their burkas.
          No lie I saw it on the discovery channel that Arab men love when they catch a little glimpse of ankle...scandalous.

          Do religious food restrictions cover licking things, because if you are actually consuming something during oral sex you might be doing it wrong?
      • Well, I remember a year ago people were stating and laughing at UBL for having porn in his hideout when he was killed for being a hypocrite. Others were claiming it was just extra gossipy goodness designed and hoaxed If it wasn't destroyed, maybe it wasn't all porn after all, and should be checked. Heck, if it was left behind some of it might even be this stuff.

      • by Chrisq (894406)

        We all know these religious zealots hate pornography!

        Sharia law allows them to rape non-Muslims, have sex with nine year olds, have "temporary" marriages that only last 10 minutes, be able to force their wives to have group sex with them etc. This makes porn pretty well redundant.

      • by eln (21727)

        From now on the TSA will request all pornography in your laptop or smartphone be carefully analyzed, frame by frame, before you board your flight!!!

        That's it, I'm going to get a job at the TSA.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      I see this opening a door for governments to now ban porn as it supports terrorism.

      Watch a gangbang, you're a terrorist.

      All I know is I want a t-shirt now that says "Money Shots Support Terrorism!"
  • Stego (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:18AM (#39857557)

    Of course, a terrorist group wouldn't use one of the most widely-distributed types of video to conceal information in plain sight, knowing that communication with the actual target would be concealed by the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of others downloading it.

    Absent the decryption key and/or software, I can't see a solid basis for destroying this guy's life. Of course, that won't stop them. New terrorist strategy: Make everyone a terrorist by distributing encoded terrorist documents.

    • Re:Stego (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:31AM (#39857737) Homepage

      That sort of argument is unlikely to fly in front of a jury given all the other evidence against him. Bear in mind this wasn't just a random stop-and-search, they already suspected he was an al-Qaeda member. He tried to hide the incriminating files. Probably more that isn't in the story.

      Having said that, I think this sort of story just re-inforces the general impression that the counter-terrorism apparatus is way too big for the size of the threat it presently faces. If this is the way AQ move sensitive files around, they are clearly unable to recruit members with any technical sophistication. I can easily believe intelligence agencies have got a lot better over time, not to mention ruthless and focused, but it seems that if these guys can pull off a devastating attack then basically anyone can and we may as well give up now. No need for "training in Pakistan" for those guys.

      • Re:Stego (Score:5, Insightful)

        by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:58AM (#39858117)

        That sort of argument is unlikely to fly in front of a jury given all the other evidence against him.

        Correct. Most juries make their decisions based on emotional reasoning, rather than on the law. That's why so many people are in prison in this country compared to others, and also why so many innocent people are released from prison every year based on new evidence.

        Bear in mind this wasn't just a random stop-and-search, they already suspected he was an al-Qaeda member.

        And this is why juries so often convict innocent people: Suspicion equivocates to guilt for many people.

        He tried to hide the incriminating files.

        Pornography is prohibited in Pakistan, even when viewing it in the privacy of your own home. It's legal in Austria, the country he was from. So upon arriving in Austria from Pakistan, is it really that unusual?

        Having said that, I think this sort of story just re-inforces the general impression that the counter-terrorism apparatus is way too big for the size of the threat it presently faces

        Irony, defined: Saying that counter-terrorism apparatus is way too big, while unintentionally demonstrating exactly why it is too big.

        If this is the way AQ move sensitive files around, they are clearly unable to recruit members with any technical sophistication.

        The use of steganography is not exactly widespread; And despite the simplicity of the concept, most everyday people in this country couldn't tell you what it is, nor provide any examples of it. This is likely broadly true of the general population worldwide. So your argument here is invalid: The very use of steganographic techniques indicates an above-average level of technical proficiency.

        I can easily believe intelligence agencies have got a lot better over time, not to mention ruthless and focused, but it seems that if these guys can pull off a devastating attack then basically anyone can and we may as well give up now.

        If you never try, you'll never succeed. Defeatism is not an attribute I want in any person, group, or organization who's charter is to save my ass from a suicide bomber. I sincerely hope you feel similar.

        No need for "training in Pakistan" for those guys.

        They train all over the world, and yet very few of them succeed in their attacks. If I were rooting for the other team, I would conclude that the training is inadequate. However, I am not, so I am thankful their training sucks. Keep getting an 'F' in "Death to America 101" guys.

        • Re:Stego (Score:5, Informative)

          by KDR_11k (778916) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:15PM (#39858999)

          The German authorities found the docs, Germany doesn't have jury trials.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by gmhowell (26755)

            The German authorities found the docs, Germany doesn't have jury trials.

            Just a train ride and a quick shower at the end?

        • Re:Stego (Score:4, Informative)

          by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:38PM (#39859325) Homepage Journal

          Most juries make their decisions based on emotional reasoning, rather than on the law. That's why so many people are in prison in this country compared to others, and also why so many innocent people are released from prison every year based on new evidence.

          Actually, no. We have "three strikes" laws, other countries don't. We actively target drug users and pretty much ignore the dealers, other countries have either legalized these drugs or only incarcerate dealers.

          Then there's corruption at the police and prosecutor levels. Illinois got rid of the death penalty when it was found that half the men there were innocent, and in almost all cases evidence helpful to the defendant had been destroyed or covered up, or evidence against the defendant was manufactured.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Given the Muslim attitude towards porn, it is no surprise that he would try to hide the incriminating files. That is not at all relevant evidence of guilt, and would probably be stricken from the record on first amendment grounds if the prosecution were foolish enough to bring it up.

        However, the fact that the person did try to hide it might be construed as probable cause to ask for a search warrant to look for further evidence, in which case either this guy has the ability to decode that information or he

      • by elucido (870205) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:19PM (#39859055)

        That sort of argument is unlikely to fly in front of a jury given all the other evidence against him. Bear in mind this wasn't just a random stop-and-search, they already suspected he was an al-Qaeda member. He tried to hide the incriminating files. Probably more that isn't in the story.

        Having said that, I think this sort of story just re-inforces the general impression that the counter-terrorism apparatus is way too big for the size of the threat it presently faces. If this is the way AQ move sensitive files around, they are clearly unable to recruit members with any technical sophistication. I can easily believe intelligence agencies have got a lot better over time, not to mention ruthless and focused, but it seems that if these guys can pull off a devastating attack then basically anyone can and we may as well give up now. No need for "training in Pakistan" for those guys.

        If this guy really is a terrorist and they really did recover these encoded files they wouldn't be announcing it in the news as that is irresponsible and stupid.

        So why is it being announced? It should be classified.

      • Re:Stego (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:21PM (#39859079)

        Jury? What jury?

        Hint: Not every legal system depends on the whims and emotional instability of 12 idiots. Some think it's more sensible to get verdicts from people who know the law.

        • Re:Stego (Score:5, Insightful)

          by infinitelink (963279) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:42PM (#39859363) Homepage Journal
          Dear Opportunist, America has juries with the intent to frustrate the government from always having its way, period: because of juries, the executive (who purports to act in the name of the law), legislative (who makes the laws), and judicial (who rules on the laws) can all be nullified and hindered by ordinary people: even if not particularly practicing "nullification" per se, they can at least hang trials over and over if something is questionable. So long as one analytical and logical reasoner is in the jury, and something about a trial is dubious, the motion against an accused fails: that is, at least, if that person gives a damn about being honest and upright. Far from being insensible and stupid, it's a feature: get over it. Note that it's not just the government, but the accused as well, that can appeal to the emotions of a jury.
    • Re:Stego (Score:5, Insightful)

      by localman57 (1340533) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:32AM (#39857755)

      Of course, that won't stop them. New terrorist strategy: Make everyone a terrorist by distributing encoded terrorist documents

      I'm frankly surprised the child-porn sickos haven't been doing this for some time. Imagine a virus that installs a torrent client or other peer-to-peer style network on the computers it infests, then starts distributing porn from PC to PC. It would add a lot of plausible denyability to the fact that you had the stuff on your PC, if the virus was also there.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      So it just so happens that two videos on this guy's drive both contained Al Qaeda files? And he was smuggling them in his underpants because... he thinks porn is illegal? And it's just a coincidence that he was recently in Pakistan? And another coincidence that he was traveling with a man suspected of setting up the German branch of the Taliban?

      Come on, I know that 90% of anti-terrorism security is just theatre, and so we're conditioned to dismiss any successes it claims, but be rational.

      And anyway, ther

      • by tverbeek (457094)

        A fundie Muslim just might hide porn in his pants, not wanting his colleagues to know he's got it. It's at least more plausible than hiding it in MS Word documents or vacation snapshots, which would make no sense whatsoever to conceal. I'd guess that stego-encoding the info was a one-last-line-of-defense tactic, so that even if the files were discovered and the operative caught, or if he dropped the storage device somewhere, at least there'd be a chance that officials wouldn't find the plans. Kind of lik

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cdrudge (68377)

      Absent the decryption key and/or software, I can't see a solid basis for destroying this guy's life. Of course, that won't stop them. New terrorist strategy: Make everyone a terrorist by distributing encoded terrorist documents.

      If you or I were caught with the video, then claiming that we knew nothing about any hidden content is plausible. But neither of us are suspected terrorists, had ties to suspected terrorist organizations, have traveled to regions of Pakistan known for terrorist training camps, or we

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        If you or I were caught with the video, then claiming that we knew nothing about any hidden content is plausible.

        Justice is supposed to be blind. Whether I'm a 10 time convicted felon, or a school teacher who's never even gotten a parking ticket, the facts are the facts. That is what guilt or innocence is determined on.

        But neither of us are suspected terrorists, had ties to suspected terrorist organizations, have traveled to regions of Pakistan known for terrorist training camps, or were found with multiple memory cards hidden in our underwear...that just happened to have a porn video with a lot of hidden content very pertinent to terrorist organizations.

        All of those things are known as 'circumstantial evidence' and carry no weight whatsoever on their own. Standing in a garage doesn't make you a car. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian. Being in Pakistan doesn't make you a terrorist. Holding a flash drive doesn't make you a computer expert. Get

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tverbeek (457094)

      This isn't some random dude who got nabbed because something incriminating got planted on his laptop, "in plain sight" to be found by random no-thought-required screening. He was concealing it because he knew it would get him in trouble with security agents if found, and it was found because he and his companion "...were on a watch list, and when they handed over documents at a European border crossing, their names registered with counterterrorism agencies. ...Ocak is also charged with helping to form a gr

    • Oh fucking great. Cue the RIAA shill with the "downloading is helping terrorism" spiel.

  • I'm shocked that this didn't come out 10 years ago. Scary terrorists might be hiding secret communications in internet porn. It's alarming, and racy. All you need for a good news story.
    • Why is that scary? Intelligence agencies have used broadcast media to communicate with spies in the field for many decades now. Look up "numbers stations" -- you could tune in to many of these broadcasts any time you want.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      It's just proof of how stupid they are.

      Really, smuggling it physically that way. This is pretty much proof the Taliban is nothing but bumbling morons.

      Real secret ops people who had any clue at all, would have done it differently. OTS Consumer tech has the ability to sneak a LOT past security checkpoints.

      • I've yet to ever have any security actually boot my computer, let alone fire up my still installed but physically disconnected spare HD still in the laptop. I imagine they were being a bit more thorough with this guy - but I'd love to be able to test their methods. I'd be willing to bet I could sneak the library of congress by.
  • by Sulphur (1548251) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:19AM (#39857575)

    Why Bin Laden was watching porn.

    • by gparent (1242548)

      It'd be really interesting if they went back to evidence and found something like this. unfortunately I doubt our good friend Laden would be down and dirty with steno plans, it'd be pretty stupid for the head of a terrorist group.

    • While applying Just For Men on his graying beard.

    • Look, I don't know about terrorists but just the porn pretty well describes quite a lot of my plans.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:19AM (#39857577)

    I really would like to see this video, so I can become familiar with their steganographic techniques.
    You know, for science.

    • by Bongo (13261)

      Don't forget to also examine the pork sausages and bacon.

      Anything else un-Islamic they could be carrying? A copy of "Feminism is for Everybody"? A CND flag? A kilt?

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      I'm currently browsing an entire collection of "data" to see if I can uncover something. Everyone wants to become a stegano researcher today!
  • Lets say I'll be examining this "evidence" my self. I'm not quite sure they are up to the job, and I feel I should give them a hand.
  • Dumb (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:21AM (#39857593) Homepage
    Steganographically hide sensitive information in an innocuous looking video, and then hide it in your underpants thus guaranteeing it will arouse suspicion on discovery. How stupid are these guys??
    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:28AM (#39857699)
      So you find some pornography files in a strange place (a guy's underwear -- maybe not that strange), and the reason you think there is some hidden message is...? Oh, yeah, you also found the steganography software that was used for encoding and decoding, and then just brute forced the passphrase (RTFA). So the fact that the memory card was in the guy's underwear is actually irrelevant -- the same thing would have happened had the card been in his wallet, backback, tablet, etc.

      This is the classic warden problem, applied to terrorists.
      • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @12:02PM (#39858181) Journal

        It's all about layers.

        Hiding data in your underpants is very suspicious.

        Keeping a steganography program along with the data is very suspicious.

        Having a big stash of porn if you're a fundementalist is a little bit suspicious.

        All those are independent.

        The fact it was in his underwear is definitely relevant, since the whole point of steganography is to hide. Every time you do something suspicious to make people look harder, you defeat the purpose of the steganography.

        If it was a memory card in his backpack, in his camera, which matched his camera, had consistent dates and had a bunch of touristy videos on it and nothing else, they might wehh lave not looked any further.

        Of course they might have done.

        But if most of the files were chaff and had embedded random data (to make the noise levels match) and one had encryped data, even with a moderately good password, they might well have wasted a ton of time on the wrong files and given up.

        The fact he had it hidden in his pants pretty much guaranteed that they looked until they found something.

        Of course if he'd done all that and had a really good password, they would have been SOL, either way. They would have probably been very suspicious, but unable to prove anything either way.

    • Steganographically hide sensitive information in an innocuous looking video, and then hide it in your underpants thus guaranteeing it will arouse suspicion on discovery. How stupid are these guys??

      Maybe they mis-translated another article on security, that said you should have as many "layers" as possible between you and your attacker.

    • by Dracos (107777)

      The discord you point out is why I have trouble believing these stories as they are presented. Sophisticated obfuscation techniques thwarted by boneheaded transport tactics, all done by Muslim fundamentalists embedding secrets in porn. It's just a bit too contrived and shiny.

  • The real question: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ericloewe (2129490) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:22AM (#39857607)

    How did they come to the idea of checking the guy's porn for hidden documents?

    Were they interested in the porn but found (by accident) the not-very-well-hidden documents?
    Were they tipped?
    Did they randomly analyse the contents?

    None of these sound likely...

    • When terrorists that follow sharia law are trading and carrying sharia contraband and an obvious vector for stego, it isn't difficult to make the next mental step.
      • Just checked - TFA implies the guy was carrying the steganography software with him. They then seemingly brute-forced the porn he was carrying.

        This is pretty much the same as keeping an encrypted file next to a text file with one long line of text.

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      Maybe it is just standard procedure to analyze image documents for hidden content, no matter what the image is. And *especially* if it is smuggled in someone's pants.

      I mean, we've only been reading articles on steganography since what, September 12, 2001? You'd think even security services might have figured it out by now.

    • by pz (113803)

      I'm thinking that a memory card being hidden in someone'ss underpants would be sufficient motivation for an investigator to give the contents some pretty serious scrutiny. Memory cards are innocuous and ubiquitous. There are millions-to-billions of them in circulation given that there's one in many cell phones, and one in most cameras. If one of them was hidden, then there's got to be a good reason. To make the card less suspicious this fellow should have shot a video of his (or someone's) kids doing s

    • Probably standard procedure to run a set of automated scans. Also, if the data was hidden via steganography in plaintext as opposed to encrypting it to look like (ie: Gaussian) noise in an audio/video file, then it sticks out like a sore thumb. You can just do local noise and autocorrelation estimates in small locales, and will be well on your way to figuring it out in no time. It's not that different from detecting how people have photoshopped an image, in the simpler cases.

      http://www.errorlevelanalysis [errorlevelanalysis.com]
  • Buried inside them was a pornographic video called "Kick Ass" -- and a file marked "Sexy Tanja."

    Several weeks later, after laborious efforts to crack a password and software to make the file almost invisible, German investigators discovered encoded inside the actual video a treasure trove of intelligence

    He'll get 5 years in jail for the terrorism charges, and 10 years in jail for copyright infringement. It's would be interesting to get some more background information. Was it one of those 'vault' type encrypted USB sticks? Were the authorities not at all surprised but tipped off about the steganography, or did one of them work so hard on it because it was pr0n, but noticed some weird pixellation? In other words, if it was called "Yoga for beginners" would they have bothered?

  • Great now I gotta go through 50 gig of downloaded
    video to make sure it's clean.
    How tiresome.

    Or I could just invite the DHS to look at it. Surely they wouldn't put me into indefinite detainment for a having Al-Queda porn/documents? Nah. That's conspiracy talk.

  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:27AM (#39857671) Journal

    Without knowledge of the algorithm and key, with any even remotely good stego and crypto it sould be impossible to prove that anything is hidden, since good crypto looks like perfetly random data.

    Even if the authorities strongly suspect that there is stego'd data, and they know the algorithm, the best they can do is extract a list of random bits corresponding to what they believe to be hidden.

    If the setgo algorithm is sound, then there is no way of proving that the data source isn't just a bit noisy.

    Then, there should be no way of decrypting the data, or even proving it is non-random.

    Unless they used a very weak password, and the authorities new enough about the organisation to have a limited pool of crypto and stego algorithms to try.

    Either that or they inferred the most likely one time pad, based on the presence of a beard and arabic sounding name on the suspect.

    • I can't claim to be an expert on the topic, but there are likely statistical methods to determine the probability that an image is naturally noisy, or made so by artificial means (i.e. proof that steganography is present). Even in extreme cases the crypto would still protect the message itself, until someone pulls out the $5 wrench.

    • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @12:01PM (#39858173) Homepage Journal

      Steno doesn't require encryption. It prevents the information from getting into the hands of the opposition to begin with. They are probably under the assumption that trying to encrypt something (A) is a waste of time if they are likely to have the resources to break it and (B) will attract attention.

      Analysis of randomness is quite an advanced science. It's not nearly as difficult as you might imagine to spot an anomaly in random data. Few things in life are truly random, and if you are familiar enough with the kind of randomness in something, you will have a very good statistical chance of noticing it.

      As for the steno itself, there's a double-edged sword there. The same as encryption, only a fool designs his own. Without a really deep understanding of encryption it's easy to make a subtle mistake in you design that introduces a significant weakness. So on that hand we have to assume they are using something at least somewhat commonly available. But that's where the other edge gets you... it becomes MUCH easier to spot steno'd data when you are checking for a list of specific methods of steno. The analysis tool will scan the data against dozens or hundreds of common tools, and draw a nice graph with the line mostly hanging around the 2% point at the bottom, except for one eyesore of a spike for one of the tests. Then they take off the gloves and get to work.

      Just tossing out a very basic example, lets say they are steno'ing encrypted data into a big tiff by overwriting the LSB on teach byte. Visually you won't notice this because the difference is too small Mathematically the data you're storing is more-or-less flat random. BUT the data you replaced ISN'T. The LSB in an image is far from noise, and will have areas that are related by their relative position in the image. This will stick out like a sore thumb when you run a little analysis on the bits in the image. It'll be too random. And at this point your steno is busted, and it comes down to breaking the encryption. The lesson there is pretty basic - encrypted data will stick out about as well as data in the clear. All you're doing at that point is buying a little time. And intel agencies are both persistent and patient. You're better off investing more time in better steno.

      To throw in an analogy, look at smuggling. If a truck is being searched at the border and the smugglers did a good job distracting from the small hide where the goods are, they get past the checkpoint with zero problem. It doesn't matter if the goods are in a safe in the hole or just tossed in a grocery sac, being in a safe didn't help. On the other hand, if the guards notice the missing volume, you're done. It doesn't matter how well you've concealed the opening, it doesn't matter how sturdy the latch, it doesn't matter if the goods are in a safe. You've been found out, and you're done. They will tear the truck apart until they get into the hole, and bust open the safe. The same principles are at work with steno.

    • by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @12:21PM (#39858375) Homepage Journal

      Both the stego and the crypto could actually be excellent and still be systematically weakened by a PEBKaC or even other layers. A few ideas off the top of my head...

      Maybe the flash drive contained not only the data, but also some executable stego software (kind of like how having TrueCrypt installed, as an add-on rather than something coming in all default installs, is a way of announcing "hidden volumes very likely exist on this system").

      Maybe the stego and crypto application software is excellent, but some other layer (e.g. the OS) left clues. Perhaps he occasionally updated the archive (it sounds like the movie contained multiple files), adding to it, and every time he used the stego software to write out a new file, the OS left copies of the file's previous contents sitting around in free space. (Ooh, or maybe the flash drive's own wear-levelling management: he copied the video to the drive once, then the video was updated and he copied the updated one "over" it onto the same drive -- bingo, this is my first guess as to what actually happened. I bet lots of not-necessarily-stupid people would make this mistake.) Then investigators notice two copies of the "same" video with different binary representations. Stego alert.

      Maybe all the tools were perfect, but the user was an idiot. Perhaps after the guy's capture, they gave him back his flash drive and let him use a computer, and then he cooperatively typed his passphrase into the government's friendly computer, while thinking, "Muahaha, stupid infidels, now I will use this opportunity to delete my^H^H the only copy of the secret plans! I am so clever and they are so dumb!"

      You can have good tools and still deploy them stupidly or use them stupidly. Or just foolishly enough, to tip your hand that you're hiding data. After that, decryption passphrase is recovered with a $10 wrench.

  • I can't remember the name of the film, and it was not exactly modern stenography, but the plot was the Russians were sending secret messages to and from their embedded spies in the States via a series of porno videos.

    Messages were being encoded as bar code segments used to make up the wall paper behind the 'actors'

  • On May 16 last year, a 22-year-old Austrian named Maqsood Lodin was being questioned by police in Berlin. He had recently returned from Pakistan via Budapest, Hungary, and then traveled overland to Germany. His interrogators were surprised to find that hidden in his underpants were a digital storage device and memory cards.

    Yeah, steganography pretty much fails when you shove the thing up in your ass. Law enforcers tend to find that suspicious.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:39AM (#39857847)
    Osama's wife: Do you always look at it encoded?

    Osama: Well you have to. There's way too much information to decode the movie in realtime. You get used to it. I...I don't even see the blonde, brunette, and red-head. All I see is our nefarious plots. Hey, you uh... want a drink?
  • I've been wondering for a long time whether spam is not also a means for them to disseminate instructions in some way. It doesn't appear to come from an identifiable source, and does not seem directed at any particular recipient, but the people who expect to find something there would be able to find it.

  • Muslim kid: "Cor look at the bajungas on her..."
    (Crazy fanatic dad walks in)
    Crazy fanatic dad : "OH NO!!! you have been corrupted by the filthy western decadance!! "
    Muslim kid : "No dad!! look im using their own flithy videos against them, by hiding cunning terrorist plans inside them!! honest!!"
    Crazy fanactic dad : "Ahh good son. Well done carry on"
    (Crazy fanactic dad leaves)
    Muslim kid (whispers) : "sucker! heh heh "
  • The "suspect" will never know ... As the "authorities" have undoubtedly discovered already.
  • My god what next Televangelism?
  • I prefer to keep my porn steganagraphically em bedded under my matress for easy access.
  • Two holes at once.
  • Suspicion extreme (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ehiris (214677) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @11:52AM (#39858041) Homepage

    Importing porn to Germany from Pakistan is about the most suspicious thing anyone can do.

  • Now they get to sit around watching Al-Qaeda videos so they can keep a eye out for the naughty bits.
  • Hiding it in port is probably a great recruitment tool!!!

  • I find very surprising that they could find&decrypt the steganography: AFAIK, the first step is to encrypt the document and compress it, making the document "look like" a random number.
    Then you mix the document with the movie..

    So either the terrorists were lazy/stupid or there's something strange here: how did they find the hidden countent?

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