Camera/Shy: Theres more to the picture than steganography

eLABorations: Hacktivismo's encryption application may arouse ambivalence, but that's no reason to limit its use

Recently, the international hacker group known as Hacktivismo announced the upcoming release of its long-awaited Camera/Shy application.

Camera/Shy is essentially a very simple steganography tool that allows users to encrypt information and hide it in standard GIF images, one of the most popular and common file formats on the Internet today.

According to Hacktivismos claims, the main goal of the release of this tool is to make it possible for people under oppressive regimes to overcome Internet censorship and easily send information to others. One of the main targets of the tool is the Chinese governments Internet firewall.

Ive been waiting for this release for a while now. Early reports had suggested that it would be more of a peer-to-peer system, basically an easier-to-use and more-capable replacement for Freenet. When it turned out to be a steganographic tool, I had mixed feelings.

On one hand Im a complete sucker for anything that works against governments like the Chinese. When the events in Tiananmen Square took place, I was working the night shift at a daily newspaper and Ill always remember everyone in the newsroom standing around the television—with my initial excitement and hope at watching a peaceful revolution unfold replaced by anger and despair at the way it was crushed.

However, after the events of Sept. 11, it was revealed that al-Qaida used steganography techniques to communicate over the Internet.

This is a tough place to be in. I agree that you cant limit the use of something that will benefit many just because some might misuse it. But I wouldnt want to be the developer of an application that ends up being used to make some future attack possible.

Still, right now, Im going to support Camera/Shy, not just because of what it can do for those under oppressive regimes, but even for what it can do here in the United States, where we may need to start worrying about censorship from not only our government, but also from our own ISP.

Do you think the benefits of Camera/Shy outweigh its risks? Let me know at