Steganography Puts IT&E Center in Media Spotlight

Posted: January 8, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

Heightened interest in a computer security technique called steganography has kept Sushil Jajodia, director of the Center for Secure Information Systems in the School of Information Technology and Engineering (IT&E), and Neil Johnson, associate director, busy with media calls and appearances over the past few months.

A live appearance on MSNBC, for which Jajodia and student Michael Jacobs were flown to New Jersey, a CNN interview with Johnson, and a New York Times article that quoted Johnson extensively are some of the most recent examples, but since Sept. 11 Jajodia and especially Johnson have been interviewed by nearly every major U.S. news organization and some international ones as well. Johnson’s web page on steganography has led many reporters and even government officials to call him for comments and advice.

The technology that has piqued media interest has been suggested as a method terrorists may use to communicate with one another. Steganography is derived from a Greek word meaning “covered writing.” The technique has been around in some form for hundreds of years, but recently it has been applied to digital files sent over the Internet. Today’s high-tech steganography involves hiding images or messages within other innocuous files.

Have terrorists been using steganography to communicate? Johnson says, “Any person who needs concealment will use whatever method they can.” He suggests terrorists may even be using very low-tech methods to send hidden messages.

For the full story, see the January/February issue of the Mason Gazette.

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