Steganography And The War On Child Porn

By | November 1, 2004

A few weeks ago I wrote about steganography — the hiding of information inside other stuff, usually referring these days to hiding data inside photographs (FEER column here, here; both subscription only).

One usage I missed was in trying to track down paedophiles. So instead of bad guys hiding their bad stuff inside other files, police appear to be able to use a similar technology to trace the bad guys. Australia’s Sunday Telegraph (subscription only) reports on how the country’s high-tech police squad is “using evolving new technology to catch criminals, such as special ‘signatures’ on digital photographs that can tell investigators where and when an image was taken.” Already, the paper says, “one of these signatures has helped police to find one abused young Australian girl whose photographs had been posted on the Internet.”

The paper doesn’t go into further detail, but I assume the use of steganography in this case would involve embedding something into a digital photograph which might then be able to ‘phone home’ in some way. Or does anyone have any better ideas?

The Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC) campaign is part of Operation Auxin, which has already “resulted in the arrest of more than 200 people”, the paper says.

2 thoughts on “Steganography And The War On Child Porn

  1. David Brake

    Nothing quite so advanced is at work I think Jeremy. The standard EXIF format used by digital cameras embeds in each image information like what camera took the picture, when etc. In future cameraphones will even store where the picture was taken.

  2. Callum Alden

    It really is great, quite facinating, what sort meta data you could embed in photos from Digital Camera’s I’ve cetrainly see, as well as the average; make, model, focal length, flash use, time, – GPS Spec, Keywords and related images, based on when taken and where. Now all we need is a program that can make useful output; i.e. a iPhoto album based on my photos taken at certain locations that updates itself. On the child porn front; this is great news, and it’s a positive thing to see cops are trying out new ways to catch new-crooks. Right?


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