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1) List and explain five (5) examples of how steganography were used BEFORE the advent of computers.

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The purpose of steganography is covert communication-to hide the existence of a message from a third party (Kessler, 2015). There are many unique ways that people came up with throughout history to ensure that their messages stayed secret. Prior to computers there were null ciphers, grille ciphers, microdots, semagrams and even the use of tattoos.

A null cipher is one where the secret message is hidden inside of a seemingly normal text. Probably one of the most notable uses of a null cipher was by the Germans during WW2 where the secret message stated, “Pershing sails from NY June 1.” (Johnson, 1995). This message was contained in a block of text that if you did not know what letters to pick out from the words, you would not be able to decipher the secret.

A grille cipher is another for of steganography where an individual will have a template that has certain areas cut out and will place this over a grid of seemingly random letters. Each party would need to know the pattern of the template in order to make and read the ciphertext. Once the template its placed over the block of letters you would take not of the ones that appear in the template and then rotate the template clockwise 90 degrees. (Instructables, 2017)

A microdot is a unique form of steganography in that it used microfilm that had information printed on it so small that the microfilm itself could be as small as 1mm. Using magnification, they were able to store a lot of information on such a small medium. This method was used in WW2 (Kipper, 2003).

Semagrams can either be visual or text based and hide the information in the symbols or by modifying the appearance of the text (Kessler, 2015). Lastly, messages were even tattooed into the heads of slaves where they would then wait for the hair to grow back and send them to deliver the message. This was used in ancient Greece (Poston & Dhandhania, n.d.).


Poston, H., & Dhandhania, K. (n.d.). Steganography: Introduction, Examples and Tools. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.commonlounge.com/discussion/4bc16dbc2c7145ff87ad0f0d5401a242

Instructables. (2017, October 06). Fleissner Grille Cipher. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.instructables.com/id/Fleissner-Grille-Cipher/

Kipper, G. (2004). Investigator’s guide to steganography. Boca Raton, FL: Auerbach. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://flylib.com/books/en/1.496.1.12/1/

Kessler, G. (2015, February). An Overview of Steganography for the Computer Forensics Examiner. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.garykessler.net/library/fsc_stego.html

Johnson, N. (1995, November). History and Steganography. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.jjtc.com/stegdoc/sec202.html

2) List and explain five (5) examples of how encryption (or cryptology) were used BEFORE the advent of computers.

Cryptography has been used to take plain text secret messages and encrypt them into a cipher text where it is not readable unless the other party knows how to decrypt the message. Examples of cryptology use before the advent of computers include the Caesar cipher, the scytale, the enigma machine from WW2, the Jefferson wheel, and the pigpen cipher.

The Caesar cipher is a simple cipher that simply shifts the letters of the alphabet over a set amount of spaces (Practical Cryptography, n.d.). For example, my name ‘Ben’ if the shift was 3 would become ‘Ehq’. This was used long before computers to communicate secret messages and military plans.

The scytale is another form of ancient cryptology where the people of Sparta would take strips of leather, wrap it around a cylinder and burn the message and other letters onto the strips. Once the strip was removed from the cylinder it would appear as cipher text (dcode, n.d.). Only when the strip was wrapped around a cylinder of the same diameter would the message be shown.

The enigma machine is a well-known encryption device that was used by Germany in WW2. While technically this encryption was broken by an early adaption of the computer, the encryption was not generated by a computer. The enigma machine used several sets of rotors and plugs to generate cipher text out of the plaintext provided. The enigma is a form of a substitution cipher similar to the Caesar cipher however, instead of one constant shift, the shift changes after each keypress (Brilliant.org, n.d.).

The Jefferson wheel was an early form of encryption that was invented by Thomas Jefferson. This wheel consisted of 36 cylindrical wood pieces that were threaded onto a spindle (Monticello). Each disk had the letters of the alphabet on them in random order. The message you wished to send you would spell out using the disks and then copy down a line of cipher text from somewhere else on the wheel. This could be the line directly above or on the other side. This cipher text you would then pass along to the other party where they would recreate it and then look for the real message somewhere else on the disk (Monticello.org, n.d.).

Lastly we have the pigpen cipher. This cipher is believed to have been used by the freemasons and variations of this cipher were likely used by the knights templar during the crusades (Wikipedia, 2020). This cipher works by dividing the alphabet into grids. The outline of the area where the letter that you are wanting to type is used in place of the letter (see picture below).



Practical Cryptography. (n.d.). Caesar Cipher. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from http://practicalcryptography.com/ciphers/caesar-cipher/

DCode. (n.d.). Scytale Cipher. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.dcode.fr/scytale-cipher

Brilliant.org. (n.d.). Enigma Machine. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://brilliant.org/wiki/enigma-machine/

Monticello.org. (n.d.). Monticello. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/wheel-cipher

Wikipedia. (2020, June 18). Pigpen cipher. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pigpen_cipher

3) Discuss how steganography and encryption could be used legitimately, and why this could cause you a problem as a computer forensic examiner.

Steganography can be used legitimately by artists who wish to watermark their work without having it immediately visible. The example that was given in the weekly reading used an artist protecting their work online from copyright. If an individual stole this work and claimed it to be their own, the true owner could then show ownership by recovering the watermark (Kessler, 2015). This form of steg might not be an issue for a forensic examiner as it has no malicious intent however, there are forms where malicious individuals could hide information or child pornography inside of regular pictures that could potentially go unnoticed by the examiner. Without the proper tools to discover steganography or even the thought process to check for steganography could mean that this information goes unnoticed and the crimes would continue. Encryption is something that every forensic examiner will run into while doing their job. Full disk encryption or only encrypting certain files will cause issues when conducting analysis. Without seeing the contents of those files or disk, the analysis will never truly be complete. Without the password to decrypt the files, you are really then only able to scour the device storage and conduct disk forensics to look for pieces of the file that may have been saved temporarily (Spurill, n.d.). Encryption is also something that is used legitimately by people everyday. Encrypting files to keep them safe from attackers and encrypting network traffic all help keep the confidentiality of the information intact.

Spruill, A. (n.d.). Digital Forensics and Encryption. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from http://www.evidencemagazine.com/index.php?option=com_content

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