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Steganography explained: 2 minute guide for beginners

Steganography explained: 2 minute guide for beginners

Curious about how data can be concealed to avoid detection?

Then start your exploration into the secret world of steganography!

Have you ever heard of a secret password hiding inside an image or a message being uncovered when you play a song backwards?

This is steganography, and while it serves different purposes, for cyber criminals it’s a clever tactic to hide data or evidence of a cyber attack. But what other forms of steganography are out there in the digital world? And how can we detect them?

Read on to find out the basics of this fascinating method of concealment!

What is steganography?

Steganography is the practice of hiding data inside other data with the purpose to conceal its existence. Steganography detection is challenging because by definition it is hard to detect that the concealment of a message has even taken place.

The term steganography originates from the Greek word steganos, meaning ‘covered’ or ‘concealed’, and graphein, which means ‘writing’.

The use of steganography has been recorded as far back as 440BC! In the past, concealment of messages took forms such as writing secrets with invisible ink or even stitching morse code messages inside clothing! Techniques like these have been invaluable throughout history, such as the concealment of messages during WW2.

Steganography detection is challenging because by definition it is hard to detect that the concealment of a message has even taken place.

Steganography in the digital age

More recently, steganography has been used as a digital method to hide the existence of data online. People may hide messages to bypass censorship laws in certain countries or place hidden references in products of pop culture.

Cyber criminals use steganography to send illicit messages, passwords or codes to avoid detection. Additionally, stegware is the current term for hiding a cyber attack to avoid detection.

Some digital methods of steganography include:

  • Hiding data inside encrypted or random data
  • Embedding secret messages in image files
  • Concealing messages in the lowest bits of images
  • Audio steganography: embedding hidden messages in digital audio.

How to detect steganography

A message hidden by steganography techniques is tricky to spot but can be achieved with careful analysis and the proper methods.

Steganalysis is the term for the simplest method of detecting modified files. This technique may be used during a digital forensics investigation to decipher if a cyber criminal could have hidden important information inside other data.

If you’re hoping to become a digital forensics analyst in the future, steganography is a technique you’ll need to know!

If you are hoping to become a digital forensics analyst in the future, steganography is a technique you’ll need to know!

Steganography and CyberStart

Now you understand the basics of steganography, let’s take a look at a steganography detection case you can solve in The Choppers levels of CyberStart.

HQ L04 C04 – Photobomb

The ‘Photobomb’ brief informs you that members of The Choppers gang have been spending a lot of time on a photo-sharing site. These pleasant images may hide a dark secret!

The Choppers have used steganography techniques to hide a message within a photo on the site. It’s up to you to find the hidden message to stay one step ahead of these axe-wielding criminals!

CyberStart challenge

How do we find the hidden message?

Finding the hidden message isn’t as simple as focusing your eyes and staring at the screen! Don’t be afraid to play around with the images and try to open them in different ways to find the secrets within.

It’s easy to see cyber criminals can hide information in unsuspecting places and avoid detection in the digital age. As you practice more challenges like these with CyberStart Game, you will train your brain to always be on the lookout for a possible hiding spot for secret data!

Want to try your hand at solving more fun steganography cases? Head on over to CyberStart Game and see if you can spot anything suspicious!

All of these programmes are entirely free, and feature CyberStart!

CyberStart America

What is it?

A fun programme developed to help you discover your talent, advance your skills and win scholarships in cyber security.

Who's it for?

13-18 year old high school students in the US only.

Awesome! How can I find out more?

Cyber FastTrack

What is it?

The fastest and most cost-effective route to a career in cyber security via free training and exclusive scholarship opportunities.

Who's it for?

College students in the US only.

Great! How can I find out more?

CyberStart Canada

What is it?

A free programme teaching cyber security to high school students in Canada through CyberStart's immersive learning platform.

Who's it for?

Students between the ages of 13-18 nationwide.

Nice! How can I find out more?