The Noisy Channel


SearchWiki: A Platform for Steganography?

November 26th, 2008 · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

Lauren Weinstein wrote an interesting post today, suggestng that Google’s new SearchWiki feature “provides an interesting platform for the global distribution of secret messages“.

This practice, known as steganography, has been a concern for centuries, but most recently has come up in the context of alleged use by terrorists.

No, I don’t think Google is trying to be evil. Moreover, there are lots of other ways to broadcast steganographically encrypted messages on the web, such as posting comments on unmoderated blogs. But it’s interesting that this is the first “useful” application I’ve seen proposed for SearchWiki.

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Daniel Lemire // Nov 26, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    It is very, very, very likely that steganography on a large scale, not only by terrorists, but also by any covert organization.

    Sending encrypted emails to or from [email protected] just does not make sense.

  • 2 Daniel Tunkelang // Nov 26, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    I don’t doubt it. But I also don’t think that SearchWiki changes the playing field.

  • 3 Andreas Ringdal // Nov 27, 2008 at 2:53 am

    Many attempts to read the hidden messages can be discovered by analyzing the search patterns of users, looking for users that regularly repeat the same search queries. By analyzing the results of those queries, it might be possible to get the messages prior to the persons it was intended to reach.


  • 4 Daniel Tunkelang // Nov 27, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Yes, but that is at best looking for needles in a haystack. And I believe there are some computational complexity results on the relative difficulty of obfuscating vs. detecting obfuscation that strongly favor the obfuscators. Even in a simplified model of stenography, I have to imagine that the detection problem is at least NP-hard.

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