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Picsel Security: exchange secret messages with others, no passwords required

09 May 2014, Mike Williams

Steganography tools can be a quick and easy way to send a secret message to someone, typically embedding your words inside a digital photo. If anyone intercepts the message then they’ll see what looks like a normal image, and never realise that it contains some hidden content.

The catch? You’ll often need to protect that content with a password. And that makes life more complicated, as you must first find a way of exchanging the password with the recipient, and then you’ll both have to remember it.

Fortunately there are alternatives, and SSuite Picsel Security is one of the simplest. This portable free tool also hides text messages by embedding them in an image, but there’s no need to worry about text passwords at all.

Picsel Security can conceal a text message in any JPG

To get started, open your source picture, type a text message (or browse to a text file), and click Encrypt Image > Save Image. The program saves an image which looks exactly like the original, yet also contains your hidden words. Now you can email it, secure in the knowledge that it won’t mean anything to anyone else.

To read the message, your recipient must first open the source image in Picsel Security. That can then be used to decrypt the carrier picture, and any text it contains will be displayed in the editor.

As you can see, the original source image is acting as the password here, and that does mean your recipient needs a copy. But there are many ways to organise this.

Send someone pictures on a regular basis, for example, and they could check to see if they’ve received any of these before. If a duplicate turns up, they’ll know the first version was the source image, and can use it within SSuite Picsel Security to retrieve your message.

There is one significant issue here, in that the carrier picture can only be saved in the BMP format. If you’re hiding messages in digital photos then this will make for absolutely huge files, and may also attract attention in itself (most people will save large images as JPGs, PNGs or maybe TIFFs).

There are possible workarounds for this, of course – zipping up the BMP, perhaps converting it to a more suitable lossless format (not JPEG), although the recipient will need to convert it back before they can read it.

Put it all together and SSuite Picsel Security is a basic, but capable tool. The core technique works well, and the use of pictures as passwords can make your secret chatting much easier to manage.

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