Camera/Shy Outflanks Net Content Censorship

By Dennis Fisher  |  Posted 2002-07-15

After more than a year of development and confusion over its intentions, Hacktivismo last week unveiled an application designed to deliver censored content over the Internet.

The application, once called Peek-a-Booty, is now known as Camera/Shy and is a browser-based steganography program that can hide data inside GIF images on any Web page. Camera/Shy is designed to allow Internet users in countries such as China or Cuba to access Web content that their governments have banned.

Hacktivismo, a small offshoot of the famed Cult of the Dead Cow hacker collective in Lubbock, Texas, introduced Camera/Shy at the H2K2 Hackers on Planet Earth Convention in New York last week. The group has been working on the application since early last year, and there has been much speculation in the hacker/security community over what exactly the program would be.

The software, based on Internet Explorer, uses a technique called LSB (Least Significant Bit) steganography to hide data. Steganography is the art of disguising a message so that its existence is hidden. The LSB method is used to insert the hidden content in the least-significant portions of the image. It is one of the faster and easier steganographic methods but has the drawback of altering the color content of images, which can betray the existence of a hidden message.

The hidden messages are also encrypted using 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption. Camera/Shy automatically scans each Web page the user views for hidden or encrypted GIF files. The user can then decrypt and parse the hidden content with one click, according to a statement issued by Hacktivismo.

Camera/Shy also automatically clears a machines cache and Internet history.

Camera/Shys developers said they believe the softwares potential benefits far outweigh any concerns over its possible use by criminals.

"But put another way, do terrorists use telephones, ICQ, [Microsoft Corp.s] Word programs? Of course they do," said Oxblood Ruffin, executive director of Hacktivismo and the lead developer of the Camera/Shy browser.

Ruffin said that he expects Camera/Shy to spread quickly on the Internet via Internet Relay Chat channels, mailing lists and file-sharing applications.

Hacktivismo members said they would release the software under the GNU General Public License. Camera/Shy will run on machines running Windows 95 and later and Internet Explorer 5 and later.

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