Visual Cryptography (and Tesla lifehacking, Russian psychotronics, Snowden updates)

Hiding stuff in the noise…

This one is just really hard to summarize, so I’m going to include the link right here as well as at the bottom so you can see for yourself:

Basically, have you ever laid one hand over the other, and noticed how when you slide them left to right, the spaces between your fingers are either blocked or free?

This does something similar using pixelated random-looking images. When two images are directly superimposed, a third image — containing meaningful data — appears. The secret has been split.

More complex versions allow the hiding of a fourth image, by requiring you to combine two otherwise innocuous images. Or, you can split the image over many more ciphertexts.

In theory you can decode these visually… but after staring cross-eyed at my screen for a few minutes, I have to admit it’s beyond me.

Anyway, I think this may be a visual illustration of a principle behind some of the spread spectrum and “covert” transmission technologies out there.

Lifehacking, Tesla style: I’ve been experimenting with the following and gotten excellent results.

I suspect the psychological underpinning is simple but extremely powerful, to wit: we make most of our daily decisions as a result of subconscious urges, conditioning, and needs. (e.g Maslow’s hierarchy) When you repeatedly break the habit of obeying them, they lose their pull over you.

This is a much more fundamental way of attacking the problem than mainstream psychology: everyone since Freud primarily concerns themselves with unraveling these structures. Tesla simply renders them toothless. (I think. But that was exactly his style.)

In this we may also be able to find the roots of n-million religious traditions of self-deprivation and self-punishment. Only, those are generally associated with guilt, and done for something outside you… the psychological dynamic of doing it for yourself instead is very different. (Empowering, not enslaving.)

From an article by Nikola Tesla in the June 5, 1915 issue of “Scientific American” —

“…It was not a passing determination of a light-hearted youth; it was iron resolve. As some young reader of the Scientific American might draw profit from my example I will explain.

When I was a boy of seven or eight I read a navel entitled “Abafi” —
The Son of Aba — a Servian translation from the Hungarian of Josika, a writer of renown. The lessons it teaches ate much like those of “Ben-Hur,” and in this respect it might be viewed as anticipatory of the work of Wallace. The possibilities of will-power and self-control appealed tremendously to my vivid imagination; and I began to discipline myself. Had I a sweet cake or a juicy apple which I was dying to eat I would give it to another boy and go through the tortures of Tantalus, pained but satisfied. Had I some difficult task before me which was exhausting I would attack it again and again until it was done. So I practised day by day from morning till night. At first it called for a vigorous mental effort directed against disposition and desire, but as years went by the conflict lessened and finally my will and wish became identical. They are so to-day, and in this lies the secret of whatever success I have achieved. These experiences ate as intimately linked with my discovery of the rotating magnetic field as if they formed an essential part of it; but for them I would never have invented the induction motor.”

The Russians spent $1 billion on “psychotronics” during the Cold War, the Americans at least as much. Interesting phrases: “One thing that Kernbach’s analysis lacks is any detailed discussion of the results of these programs” and “There’s obviously significantly more to the Soviet work on unconventional research than he is able to reveal.” I wonder what they found?

Snowden updates:

Are the Brits and the Americans plotting to kidnap Snowden from Russia? Controversial ex-NSA man Wayne Madsen says his ex-NSA girlfriend was asked to report to the UK embassy for “special training” after trying to contact Snowden’s friends, as part of a kidnap plot. He was speaking to the notorious Pravda paper, so who knows. Said paper quoted a senior FSB officer as saying “I am pretty sure that kidnaping the former NSA employee will be dramatically challenging.”

Particularly amusing in this context… Some NSA muckety-mucks are thinking about giving him amnesty to try and get him to come back to the US. Obligatory:

Sweden and the NSA: read the docs yourself.

Omidyar drama update: Greenwald denies that the NSA/PayPal relationship is in documents he’s been paid to withhold. (in the process and perhaps unwittingly raising the question, “if it’s not in the documents you’ve been paid to withhold, what IS in the documents you’ve been paid to withhold?”)

One reporter who’s searched through the NSA docs claims no evidence of anything PayPal. Of course, that simply means the documents he has access to don’t concern PayPal, not that there never were any PayPal documents. (C.f the hard part of proving a negative — the only real way to answer this would be for Snowden to say, “nope, I never put any PayPal documents in the cache.”)

All that said…

I looked at the original story again, and the following stuck out at me: that the main assertation — that there was a deal to withhold documents — comes from an anonymous retired NSA employee.

In other words, a classic application of the “former Chekist” rule. If the NSA wanted to torpedo the Omidyar/Greenwald venture, a little “active measures” on the behalf of a “retired” employee would be a pretty classic way to do it.

Welcome to the wilderness of mirrors…

This article is about Visual Cryptography. Visual Cryptography is a technique that allows information (images, text, diagrams …) to be encrypted using an encoding system that can be decrypted by the eyes. It does not require a computer to decode.

The technique I’m going to describe is attributed to two great mathematicians: Moni Naor and Adi Shamir, in 1994. In this implementation, I’m going to show how to split a secret message into two components. Both parts are necessary to reconstruct and reveal the secret, and the possession of either one, alone, is useless in determining the secret.[…]

We can use this technique to do something even cooler!

Imagine that, in addition to the two source images, we have a third secret image we want to encode. Let’s say we want to produce two cypher images that look ‘innocent’, but secretly hide the third. The generated two cypher images could be printed on transparencies and made to look like legitimate images of no consequence.

However, these images, when combined in just the correct way, could be used reveal a third message.

The technology of hiding images inside other images is called Steganography.

I’ve done this below. Trust me, you’re not going to believe this at first. You’re going to be convinced that there is some ‘behind the scenes’ script at work that changes the image. I assure you this is not the case. You’re still not going to believe me!

Below, on the left, is my name, encoded from a monochrome image, and also containing partial details of a third hidden image. On the right is the word ‘Fish’, similarly encoded. Now, drag the right image over to the left image and watch what happens when they overlap perfectly. Wham! How cool is that? “

%d bloggers like this: