It wasn’t that long ago that I observed that computer crime prosecutions were on the rise in West Virginia. This morning the Charleston Gazette published an article titled “Hidden digital files may be going unnoticed by law enforcement.” The article talks about a method of concealing messages/images/video/audio within other digital files, called steganography, which is a process of hiding one digital file within another, rendering it “literally invisible.” This is not something that I have seen come up in West Virginia, but apparently it has been popping up elsewhere.
The West Virginia State Police does have some type of anti-steganography software, but apparently has of yet been unsuccessful in detecting any. According to the article, anyone with access to a computer, including registered sex offenders who are being monitored, can access this method, merely by googling “information hiding.”
This will be something to look out for as time goes on. I predict that we will start seeing some criminal prosecutions in West Virginia where incriminating information is found encrypted on some innocuous-looking files, probably on the hard-drives of registered sex offenders who are attempting to evade their overseers. But that brings up an interesting question – can we find out who encrypted any such files, and when? And can we be certain that if law enforcement claims to find such a hidden file, that it wasn’t in some way planted after-the-fact. I guess we will eventually find out.
– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.