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Privacy Encryption

Introducing the NSA-Proof Crypto-Font 259

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-days-when-reading-words-seems-too-easy dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "At a moment when governments and corporations alike are hellbent on snooping through your personal digital messages, it'd sure be nice if there was a font their dragnets couldn't decipher. So Sang Mun built one. Sang, a recent graduate from the Rhode Island Schoold of Design, has unleashed ZXX — a 'disruptive typeface' that he says is much more difficult to the NSA and friends to decrypt. He's made it free to download on his website, too. 'The project started with a genuine question: How can we conceal our fundamental thoughts from artificial intelligences and those who deploy them?' he writes. 'I decided to create a typeface that would be unreadable by text scanning software (whether used by a government agency or a lone hacker) — misdirecting information or sometimes not giving any at all. It can be applied to huge amounts of data, or to personal correspondence.' He named it after the Library of Congress's labeling code ZXX, which archivists employ when they find a book that contains 'no linguistic content.'"
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Introducing the NSA-Proof Crypto-Font

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 22, 2013 @05:59PM (#44080907)

    Undecipherable my ass.

  • by cdrudge (68377) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @06:06PM (#44080949) Homepage

    I guess it will work for all my digital content that I save as raster graphics. Which is...um...none of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 22, 2013 @06:10PM (#44080977)

    You mean this font will be best used on all future Slashdot summaries?

  • by carlhaagen (1021273) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @06:12PM (#44080993)
    ...when people with a fundamentally flawed understanding of computer communication try their hands at digital cryptography.
  • Is this a joke? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by whoisrich (1194797) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @06:16PM (#44081043) Homepage

    I am not sure if the person is an idiot or just trying to get attention from the NSA news.

    The fact that each character has the same obfuscation means that it would be easy to match against, it would be more secure to take a marker pen and scribble random lines through pictures of your rebel message.

    But the "clever cryptographic fontâ"which you can use in email messages to shield them from snoops" is just laughable. Any text scanner would only see the character encoding, not the font, or is opening an e-mail and changing it's font beyond their comprehension.

  • I want to know why he thinks the NSA prints out each webpage and email and then runs it through OCR.

    ???

  • by RedBear (207369) <redbear@redbea[ ]t.com ['rne' in gap]> on Saturday June 22, 2013 @06:29PM (#44081141) Homepage

    I think most commenters here will end up completely missing the point, just as I initially did. Of course it will be trivial to bypass any possible protection the font might briefly provide, but that isn't the point. The making of the font is a political statement against government machinery and software spying on us and taking our humanity away. As such, I'd say it's quite clever and attention-getting.

    Now I'll sit back and watch 50 different people get up-modded for pedantically explaining how it will be trivial to train an OCR to recognize the font and how software reads the bytecodes and doesn't care about the font and blah blah blah...

    Is that a giant whooshing sound I hear?

  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @06:30PM (#44081147)

    At a moment when governments and corporations alike are hellbent on snooping through your personal digital messages, it'd sure be nice if there was a font their dragnets couldn't decipher.

    It is just a font! If I'm sending a digital message, as the intent of this article states, then it hardly matters what font I want it displayed in. What am I expected to do, print every email that I type and all of the data that I want to send into an image that uses this font and just send the image? I'm not convinced that would slow the NSA down as much as it would impact the people I was trying to send it to, not to mention the potential for errors in receiving messages. I'll stick with my one time pad software.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 22, 2013 @06:44PM (#44081221)
    This is the first submission I have modded down since the ability to vote down submissions. I tend to vote and mod positively. Who in their right might voted this story up? Speak up so we may mock you.
  • by putaro (235078) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @06:45PM (#44081229) Journal

    And I will be writing all of my messages in crayon from now on because crayon will smudge up the scanner. It's only a point if it actually does something!

  • Meanwhile geeks, who do understand how computers work, instead of developing technologies supporting encryption and pricacy by default, have instead hopped into bed with big data and the NSA. There are more geeks helping the NSA builds a Stasi apperatus than there are geeks working on building a truely anonymous and untappable internet.

    The more I think back to the likes of the whole Firefox self signed certs debacle, the more I see the NSA survellance apperatus collectively roaring with laughter at geekdom's heedless self-destruction of itself and the internet.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @07:27PM (#44081447) Journal

    Undecipherable my ass.

    More importantly, it's not as though the NSA reads your email by printing it out and sending it off for OCR... Font doesn't mean much if you have the document in any remotely sane digital format.

  • Re:Easy to crack? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 22, 2013 @08:09PM (#44081683)
    By simply owning a cat though, or living in a neighborhood with cats, you would have a generator for an infinite number of pictures with no clean version anywhere on the internet.
  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @11:36PM (#44082529) Journal
    Ok, now you are getting me angry.

    Geeks have been very vocal about wiretapping issues for a LONG time. Does ECHELON ring any bell? Geeks have created institutions like the EFF, tools like Tor, GPG, darknets, bittorrent, bitcoin. It is true that few people use them, and it is true as well that they allow a truly anonymous internet that escapes even NSA surveillance. I refuse that because you are too lazy to get an interest in these free tools you pretend that these problems are met with indifference in the tech community. Reality could not be further from the truth.

    People making most of these tools did this for free. When was the last time you did spend money in order to protect your privacy or anonymity? The market of surveillance is several dozens of billions of dollars yearly. The market of consumer counter-surveillance is almost inexistent. Yet, effective tools that are very easy to use exist. Don't forget to thank the geeks that have known for decades that the NSA was spying on you, found it immoral and spent years working gratis to provide you for free an excellent tool.

    Geeks employed at several levels at ISP do all that they can to keep internet free and neutral. The fact that regular internet is quite free (compared for instance with what you usuall get on your 3G smartphone) is due in large part because geeks in their majority have a strong ethical sense and know the value of openness. Snowden and Assange are geeks, but if you look at the HBGary leaks, you will see that developpers strongly opposed some policies. Whistleblowers about surveillance are almost always geeks involved in the infrastructure. Never legislators, managers, officiers, who know as well the extent of the surveillance.
  • by OneAhead (1495535) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @12:02AM (#44082633)
    I see it as an excercise in misinformation rather than awareness. If this catches on, a lot of "joe sixpacks" will be led to believe that a font can somehow make an electronic document less easy to decypher, rather than exploring options that are actually pretty safe, such as gpg. [lame pgp reference intended - hur hur hur]
  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @01:12AM (#44082849)

    Meanwhile geeks, who do understand how computers work, instead of developing technologies supporting encryption and pricacy by default, have instead hopped into bed with big data and the NSA

    Security is not something that you can simply buy as a product and then forget about. The tools are freely available, but they don't work well or even much at all unless you know how to use them. The Edward Snowden affair and his attempts to communicate securely with journalists via email serves to highlight the difficulties encountered by normal people attempting to install and use these tools. To some extent this is inevitable because good security requires knowledge of cryptographic procedures and strict observance of key handling protocols that most people outside of tech or intelligence circles would find to be esoteric at best and most probably incomprehensible.

    There are more geeks helping the NSA builds a Stasi apperatus than there are geeks working on building a truely anonymous and untappable internet.

    I'm not aware of any practical method of two-way communication that isn't subject to eavesdropping given enough resources. You can make yourself more difficult to follow, but as a practical matter if they want to listen in they will find a way to do so.

    the more I see the NSA survellance apperatus collectively roaring with laughter at geekdom's heedless self-destruction of itself and the internet.

    The people who work for the NSA have families and children too. Some of them might even be your neighbors. Surely your concerns aren't entirely separate from theirs on these matters? If they can listen to any of us then they can listen to all of us. Even Senators and Congressmen understand this much and it's no laughing matter.

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @04:09AM (#44083389)

    Irrelevant. If the font were sent as a photograph of a printed copy all the NSA would have to do would be download his freely available font and add it to an OCR engine.

  • It's actually very difficult for the text to be read and filtered by a computer using this form of obfuscation, as long as there are enough variants of each letter, and they are well randomised throughout the content. However, you don't actually need a special font:
    http://www.tienhuis.nl/utf8-generator [tienhuis.nl]

    It's like a keyless cipher that's just a character mapping (with random selection of character). If anyone used the font for something serious, the NSA could construct the inverse mapping in days manually. In fact, if the font is to be effective, the forward mapping has to be implemented in software, i.e. a program to convert normal text to "encrypted" text, and NSA could use that software to implement an automatic decoder in an hour.

Reference the NULL within NULL, it is the gateway to all wizardry.

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