We had our suspicions and maybe fears bordering on paranoia that ‘the government is spying on us’. There have actually been plenty of movies and TV series about this. But to be provided with pages and pages detailing the cyber-spying capabilities of our country’s intelligence agencies is a totally different story. Suddenly, we do not seem to be paranoid anymore as our suspicions have real basis.
Following WikiLeaks’ recent disturbing revelation about the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) alleged bypassing of security encryption on different kinds of smart devices — focus on cybersecurity has once again returned to the limelight.
Among those who regard cybersecurity threat as a priority issue is Professor Ofer Hadar — head of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Department of Communication Systems Engineering. As reported by Phys.Org, Prof. Hadar has supposedly devised a new technique that can potentially eliminate any kind of cyberattack initiated via internet videos or pictures.
Why did Hadar choose these specific types of media? “Hackers like videos and pictures because they bypass the regular data transfer systems of highly secure systems, and there is significant space in which to implant malicious code,” he explained.
Aside from this, it’s obvious that as more and more people share, post and download videos and photos on line, this aspect makes targeting these media types even more attractive to hackers.
To fight against this growing threat, Prof. Hadar came up with a series of algorithms that are designed to prevent hackers from using pictures and videos to gain access to personal and confidential information. His technique can supposedly protect against steganography as well.
Steganography is defined as the process of secretly inserting and concealing data or information within files like photos, videos or messages. Steganography has been helpful in protecting media copyrights (via digital watermarks). Unfortunately, there might be more downsides than benefits. On the extreme end, terrorist organizations have virtually turned steganography into their means of communication, passing secret messages without anyone but the intended recipient/s being aware of it.
Prof. Hadar’s initiative — dubbed ‘The Coucou Project’ — intends to address two possible situations. In both cases, a victim’s confidential information is collected through malware planted on his/her servers or hosts.
In the first situation, malware embeds classified info into an image or video that a user uploads, making the info accessible to the hacker. In the second situation, infected content is uploaded to a social network or a shared server. This then enables the malware to extract the malicious code and execute it.
According to Prof. Hadar, preliminary results show that combining CouCou Project techniques can completely protect against cyberattacks. “We envision that firewall and antivirus companies will be able to utilize Coucou protection applications and techniques in their products,” he concludes.