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December 15th, 2005

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08:51 pm - perfeCtly OrDinary subjEct
Tons of people far brighter than me will have thought of this before, but it occurs to me that the apparently most relevant part of the LiveJournal FAQ does not prohibit you from using LiveJournal's Scrapbook photo-sharing feature for steganographic purposes - specifically, storing arbitrary content of your choice within an image file so that you can retrieve the arbitrary content you have hidden within but observers may not be aware that a hidden message even exists.

So long as the file you're uploading is a valid image, and you don't upload more than 30 MB of image files at once, I think Scrapbook will take it. You can apparently now upload videos to Scrapbook as well as pictures, so the steganography ought not to be too obvious even if you have a big file to hide. Section XIV.5 of the Terms of Service suggests that [...] LiveJournal.com and its designates shall have the right, but not the obligation, to remove any content that violates the TOS or is otherwise objectionable and it probably wouldn't be too unreasonable for them to declare steganography to be objectionable, but I really don't think they can tell whether steganography is present or not without an admission of guilt. I wouldn't fancy being a test case, though.

This isn't new. For instance, steganography with Flickr has been going on since at least July, and nobody has jumped up and down and said that Flickr should be banned as a result, though I have no doubt that someone has steganographed something extremely vile into a Flickr image at least once - just as proof of concept, if nothing else. As it happens, LJ is famous for its pro-freedom-of-speech attitude towards (e.g.) pr0n sharing, so long as it's your pr0n to share in the first place; the pr0n sharing communities (none of which appear in my userinfo, but all of which appear in the hypothetical naughty second journal that may or may not exist) are sticklers for requiring potential members to quote an age in their userinfo and for that age to be sufficient; I would hope that the knee-jerk reactors do not take this as another possible way to hide bad pr0n and so drive out any potential good pr0n. Besides, in this day and age, there are tons of easier routes to take to anonymously redistribute your nasties - the megaupload, yousendit, rapidshare and the like of the world, to say nothing of BitTorrent and the like.

The only thing I would personally use steganography for in practice would be keeping online backups of mundane but important files; it would be extremely keen were I permitted to upload files with arbitrary extensions to ScrapBook, so long as I were the only one permitted to download them to ensure this can only be used as a backup tool, though only about as keen (and as relevant to the core service) as it would be for LiveJournal to send me a pony.

Incidentally, festive humbugs go out to all those who have been less than appreciative of the LiveJournal generic secular global holiday gift, particularly people falling into one or more of the following three categories:
  • Early Adopters who believe that not only have they deserved to have a better-than-free-user account but that they believe their account should remain better than that available to new free users,
  • Paid Users who want more usericon space rather than extra ScrapBook space,
  • People who recently bought paid time as a gift and believe that the bonus free extra userpic time should be awarded as a gift retrospectively. Where would you draw the line and how do you justify this?
Coal in your collective stocking!
Current Mood: cynicalcounterwhinging about whingers

(14 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:December 15th, 2005 10:22 pm (UTC)

Steganography is degrading to stegosauruses and should be illegal.
[User Picture]
Date:December 15th, 2005 10:26 pm (UTC)
the pr0n sharing communities (none of which appear in my userinfo, but all of which appear in the hypothetical naughty second journal that may or may not exist)

This made me laugh out loud and startle my dog.
[User Picture]
Date:December 15th, 2005 11:11 pm (UTC)
I'd like more icon space, but as I intend to go out and about and use my digital camera a lot more, the extra space is also a very nice little boon.

But I'm not sure I quite get what steganography is?
[User Picture]
Date:December 15th, 2005 11:50 pm (UTC)
Wikipedia explains it all. It's as accurate as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, you know. (sort of)
Date:December 16th, 2005 07:16 pm (UTC)
Wikipedia: a third less reliable than a reliable enyclopaedia.

Would a good quiz compiler trust Wikipedia implicitly as a sole source?
[User Picture]
Date:December 18th, 2005 03:43 pm (UTC)
To be fair, I think the study doesn't quite reach either conclusion.
[User Picture]
Date:December 16th, 2005 12:03 am (UTC)
If you can tell that steganography is going on then by definition it's no use whatsoever as steganography. i.e. if the question isn't academic then you're doing something badly wrong (or have broken definitions).
[User Picture]
Date:December 16th, 2005 12:20 am (UTC)


I seem to have completely missed the part where you started referring to the practice as "steganography," and so spent quite a few confused minutes trying to figure out why you were all of a sudden so interested in basic secretarial skills....

[User Picture]
Date:December 16th, 2005 01:02 am (UTC)

Re: Stenography...

Well spotted, you. I have edited the original post to correct the missing GAs. I am missing GA.

D'oh. I am much more interested in megansnography than steganography.
[User Picture]
Date:December 16th, 2005 07:45 am (UTC)

Re: Stenography...


From "http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html" - How to become a hacker...

Again, to be a hacker, you have to enter the hacker mindset. There are some things you can do when you're not at a computer that seem to help. They're not substitutes for hacking (nothing is) but many hackers do them, and feel that they connect in some basic way with the essence of hacking.
  • Learn to write your native language well. Though it's a common stereotype that programmers can't write, a surprising number of hackers (including all the most accomplished ones I know of) are very able writers.
  • Read science fiction. Go to science fiction conventions (a good way to meet hackers and proto-hackers).
  • Train in a martial-arts form. The kind of mental discipline required for martial arts seems to be similar in important ways to what hackers do. The most popular forms among hackers are definitely Asian empty-hand arts such as Tae Kwon Do, various forms of Karate, Wing Chun, Aikido, or Ju Jitsu. Western fencing and Asian sword arts also have visible followings. In places where it's legal, pistol shooting has been rising in popularity since the late 1990s. The most hackerly martial arts are those which emphasize mental discipline, relaxed awareness, and control, rather than raw strength, athleticism, or physical toughness.
  • Study an actual meditation discipline. The perennial favorite among hackers is Zen (importantly, it is possible to benefit from Zen without acquiring a religion or discarding one you already have). Other styles may work as well, but be careful to choose one that doesn't require you to believe crazy things.
  • Develop an analytical ear for music. Learn to appreciate peculiar kinds of music. Learn to play some musical instrument well, or how to sing.
  • Develop your appreciation of puns and wordplay.

I see you have already raised the last of these to an art-form.

[User Picture]
Date:December 16th, 2005 10:38 am (UTC)

Re: Stenography...

Though, if I keep confusing stenography and steganography, evidently not the first. Ah well.

Have an old icon.
Date:December 16th, 2005 02:49 pm (UTC)

What a sauce!

Stenography is the most significant part of steganography anyway, in my humble opinion.

Do you see what I did there?
[User Picture]
Date:December 16th, 2005 05:42 pm (UTC)

Re: What a sauce!

[User Picture]
Date:December 16th, 2005 04:26 pm (UTC)
does not prohibit you from using LiveJournal's Scrapbook photo-sharing feature for steganographic purposes

I'm not sure why that fact was considered worthy of a whole journal entry, but still…

If there's some way of packaging up an MP3 file in such a way that it's also a valid (if unaesthetic) JPG then I'd be interested in that (not that I particularly want to host MP3s, mind). But as arbitrary storage space that requires nontrivial munging of files before you can store them? Doesn't seem worth it — just email them to your Googlemail account instead. :-)

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