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Thread: Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

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    Default Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

    Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say


    Published September 29, 2011
    | Discovery News

    Tufts University
    Scientific espionage: microbial messaging.

    Espionage just got a little more sophisticated and scientific. Invisible ink? Decoder rings? Lemon juice? Puh-lease -- that's mere child's play compared to what double agents scientists at Tufts University just created.
    SCIENCE CHANNEL VIDEO: Supernatural Spies. During the Cold War, the Soviets used a psychic technique known as remote viewing.
    Now secret messages can be hidden in genetically engineered bacteria, thanks to a new method called steganography by printed arrays of microbes, or SPAM. Developed by chemistry professor David Walt and his cloak-and-dagger team of researchers, this new method uses an assortment of E. coli strains modified with fluorescent proteins that glow in seven colors.
    Multiply that number by the two colors each message character is encoded with, and spies like us have more than 49 possible code combinations. That's enough for the alphabet, plus digits 0 to 9, with room left over for a few extra symbols.
    The secret microbial messages are first grown in petri dishes. The cultures are then transferred to a thin film and ready to be sent to the desired undercover recipient. To unlock the message, the recipient must transfer the bacteria to a genetically modified growth medium, which acts as the secret key.
    PHOTOS: Hacker's Playbook: Common Tactics
    For example, the bacteria could be engineered to react only with a certain antibiotic, therefore allowing the message to be revealed only when in contact with that specific chemical. If any other chemical key is used, the message would be scrambled.
    Self-destructing messages could also be created by using bacteria that loses its fluorescence over time.
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    Default Re: Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

    Now that is cool.

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    Default Re: Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

    I swear I remember hearing about something like this years ago...

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    Super Moderator and PHILanthropist Extraordinaire Phil Fiord's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Ruck View Post
    I swear I remember hearing about something like this years ago...
    It was probably like so many things. A scifi thing become reality.

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    Default Re: Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

    I'm thinking the same thing, that it was something in science fiction, or some movie that used this... and now it is reality.
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    Default Re: Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

    The reason that spies hid messages was because communication wasn't ubiquitous. Now that it is, messages just need to be inserted into the slip stream surreptitiously.
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    Default Re: Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

    I know that using images... steganography is something that the various agencies are very well aware of and they have many different programs that crack these (programs as in personnel and infrastructure, not programs as in application).

    DOD and DOE have their own folks. CIA has folks. FBI and other groups and agencies inside the DHS also have various organizational structure specitically dedicated to breaking steganograph.

    This is one of the various forms of encryption that the terrorists on a regular basis. I know for an absolute fact these so-called "religious fanatics" use playboy centerfold pictures and other even raunchier stuff to send their messages to one another. I've seen some of the captured images, which then became captured messages once the key was figured out.

    In general the actual message isn't "encrypted" it's merely hidden. So you can pull for instance, the first and second bit of each byte, put them together and find the message. Or it could be the 3rd and 4th, etc.

    Most of the time the messages are simply "in the clear" which is how we have been able to get a hell of a lot of information from them.

    I'm sure since I was made aware a few years back, that things have changed on both sides of the equation now. That is, terrorists likely encrypt and THEN embed their messages this way.

    Who knows though?
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    Default Re: Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

    here's a wiki on the above subject:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steganography
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    Default Re: Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

    Freaky dude. It seems that state of the art equipment would be necessary to encode such messages. How would this fit into the world of espionage expediency, I wonder?

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    Super Moderator and PHILanthropist Extraordinaire Phil Fiord's Avatar
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    Default Re: Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

    A common but interesting way some things are hidden. The left column is simple. The right column is actually more involved.



    From:

    http://www.instructables.com/id/MP3-...ide-A-Picture/

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    Default Re: Spies Can Hide Secret Messages in Bacteria, Scientists Say

    Unrelated, but way too interesting not to add in. I may make this.

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Lase...Combination-L/


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