Hide Secret Messages In Facebook Photos Using This New Chrome Extension

Secretbook is a Chrome Extension I built as a research project in Oxford University (supervised by Dr Andrew Ker - brief) which allows users to transmit completely secret messages on Facebook. These messages are hidden in photos so they cannot be scanned for keywords by Facebook or read by prying friends.

Download the extension here and then hit ctrl+alt+a on Facebook to activate the secret new functionality. Any user with the correct password and extension installed can then decode the secret message by pressing ctrl+alt+a while looking at the photo in question.

200% zoom of before and after embedding a secret message. Changes are slight enough that without access to the original it would be impossible to visually detect the message.

The extension utilises a technique known as JPEG Steganography to hide secret messages in photos by making many visually imperceptible changes to encode the secret data. This technique has been demonstrated many times in the past although this is the first time software which allows the JPEGs to be recompressed (such as when uploaded to Facebook) without damaging the secret contents has been publicly available.

Steganography tools have traditionally been complicated (and often command line based) so a core goal to this project was to make Steganography easy and accessible so more people can take advantage of the privacy it provides.

Tools to detect steganography have existed for a long time and this extension is also susceptible - the advantage in this case is that 300+ million new photos are uploaded to Facebook every day so any detection process is likely to find a huge number of false positives. In the past walled gardens have always recompressed JPEGs rendering previous steganography tools unusable – that is the true innovation this extension brings.

The goal of this project was to demonstrate a proof of concept of performing steganography on a social networks with JPEG recompression, not to provide total security. Hence this application is only suitable for casual users and is totally useless for serious applications such as terrorism since detection would not be difficult for organisations such as the NSA.

Full details of implementation are given in the following draft document.

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47 thoughts on “Hide Secret Messages In Facebook Photos Using This New Chrome Extension

  1. Jared Deckard

    I would love to add asymmetric encryption to this. Your profile pic would always have your public key hidden in it, so people can send you messages only you can read. You would be able to sign messages too.

  2. Pingback: Hide Secret Messages In Facebook Photos Using This New Chrome Extension | Owen Campbell-Moore | AlucardV's Blog

    1. Owen Post author

      Yes it is – it’s broken up into 3 seperate bits and is a bit of a mess but feel free to have a poke around:

      Here’s the application itself (in full): https://github.com/owencm/securebook
      Here’s a simple form with just a page to generate and decode messages: https://github.com/owencm/js-steg
      Here’s some source for encoding messages specially before hiding them in the images: https://github.com/owencm/ModifiedLinearBlockCodesJS

      Note the bottom is in Coffeescript which is compiled to Javascript and used in the other two.

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  25. Ralf Heinrich

    Hey, Owen. Very nice work you did there. However, your problem with the Facebook compressing of the photos got my complete attention. But even after studying your draft document, I am not sure how to solve the problem that many graphic designers have while providing photos/images for Facebook that do not blurr or so after uploading them. Since Facebook never documented anything about this problem, I was hoping your research could help. Do you have any suggestion on how to prepare photos/images best before uploading them to Facebook – to get a possibly equal or close result (photo/uploaded photo) in the end?

    Regarding the quality factor (if that was it alone), I understand that it is different depending on what software is used for compressing (see here). Is that correct?

    Looking forward to your thoughts and suggestions!

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