Monday, April 29, 2019

I Stand Somewhat Corrected Re Steganography

Commenter Joe raised the issue of steganography (also cf. Wikipedia) in comments at Chris Wray: Deep State Tool. Those comments were seconded by commenter Anonymous. The whole issue was raised on twitter by Ramses Goat, who claims that James Comey's weird tweets--accompanied by images--are actually clandestine communications that utilize steganography. If you read my responses, you'll see that I was skeptical about this. I still am, but I located a complaint in an FBI case from 2010 in which the claim is made that the Russian intelligence services do in fact make use of steganography on publicly accessible web sites. The relevant material begins on page 9 and there are a total of 13 references to steganography on pp. 9-11:

20. To further the aims of the conspiracy, Moscow Center has arranged for the defendants clandestinely to communicate with the Russian Federation. In particular, the conspirators have used, among others, the secret communications methods described below — steganography and radiograms. 
21. Steganography is the process of secreting data in an image. Moscow Center uses steganographic software that is not commercially available. The software package permits the SVR clandestinely to insert encrypted data in images that are located on publicly-available websites without the data being visible. The encrypted data can be removed from the image, and then decrypted, using SVR-provided software. Similarly, SVR-provided software can be used to encrypt data, and then clandestinely to embed the data in images on publicly-available websites.
22. As is set forth below, certain of the Illegals have communicated with Moscow Center by means of steganography. In each of the three judicially-authorized residential searches referenced above (the 2006 Boston Search, the 2006 Seattle
Search, and the 2005 New Jersey Search), law-enforcement agents observed and forensically copied a set of computer disks ("Password-Protected Disks"). Based on subsequent investigation as described below, I believe that the Password-Protected Disks contain a steganography program employed by the SVR and the

I remain skeptical that such a technique would be used in this manner--utilizing a Twitter account--when the person in question is an extremely high profile public figure who must presume that he is under investigation and subject to electronic surveillance. It seems too risky to use Twitter for these purposes in such circumstances, since surveillers using sophisticated software could conceivably access the hidden files.

This is a good example, if that were needed, of why I value the comments.


  1. Twitter generally modifies (compresses or decompresses) uploaded images, so will likely destroy any steganographic information.
    Anyone can test this by tweeting an image, then downloading the image from your twitter feed, and compare the two images. They won't be the same.

  2. Just go with the simplest explanation- Comey's tweets and photos are odd because the man himself is a weird duck. What I get from his tweets is that he is one of the most narcissistic people you will ever come across.