Are Terrorists Really Using eBay To Hide Messages?

from the maybe-possibly dept

There’s been quite a debate raging lately over the question of whether or not terrorists are passing hidden messages encrypted into photos on eBay auctions. Claims to that effect were made soon after September 11th, but many experts considered the claims to be pure hype. An attempt to find any such images turned up none. Now, for no clear reason, a USA Today reporter has re-reported the same claims, as if they were definitely true. But, many people still think it’s crap. There’s certainly no evidence, and many of the reporter’s claims don’t really add up. eBay, for instance claims that they never spoke to the reporter. However, none of this means that people aren’t using images on eBay to pass messages. In general, it still sounds a bit far-fetched to me, but I’m certainly not an expert.

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Comments on “Are Terrorists Really Using eBay To Hide Messages?”

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Michael Lott says:

terrorists using ebay pics to pass messages

This is a highly unlikely scenario. Granted, the capability is there to encrypt a message and “hide” it in a picture, but why do it on eBay, where the whole world has access to it? That just doesn’t make any sense. No, I would imagine if they are using this kind of technology, then they are doing it in a much lower scale, less visible way.

Jared says:


The reason is simple: Sometimes the best place to hide a letter is on the mantle. Also, eBay is a dependable replicated server system. Its accessable from anywhere, its dependable and finding encrypted traffic would be like a needle in a haystack. Any server that fits this profile is useable like this. But the practice of encrypting messages within image data (steganography) has an obvious tell. You have to use a format such as BMP, TIFF or GIF. Compressed image formats like JPG destroy the encryption and are ineligable for coding. Note that these aren’t the most popular file formats and their use should stand out to anyone.

Joe Schmoe says:

No Subject Given

Honestly, all this Stego and Encryption FUD is a bunch of hooey. They could have, and probably, communicated openly and simply amoungst themselves. Let’s face it – you can drop a message in plain english on a back of a postcard and if no one pays attention to it (and at the time no one had any reason to) then obscurity is a non issue.

In fact, this scenario is beautiful in it’s simplicity. Any large landmark [read target] in this country has a postcard with its’ picture on it. One would not even have to name the said target – just send a postcard of “it” with a keyworded message.

In all of this after analysis though, and I’ll bring it up here should someone know, the one thing that I am left with curiousity is – why was the date of 9-11 chosen? Everyone went nuts fearing an attack on July 4th this past month because of the association to our holiday and its’ significance, but that was a date that is signficant to “us”. What about 9-11 was significant to “them”?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No Subject Given

September 11, 1990 was when Bush Sr. announced the Gulf war … so its meaning to them was the date when the US invaded their “holy” lands.

“On September 11, 1990 President George Bush (Sr.) made a dramatic speech to Congress, outlining the US position in the Kuwait crisis, and the preliminary steps the US was taking towards the Gulf War.”

Patryck says:

Re: No Subject Given

All this Stego stuff isn’t crap.
Encrypting messages and hiding them into files exists, and there are an unlimited of ways to do this.
You can encrypt messages into mp3s, images, and other files that people wouldn’t even think possible. You can even use bibles, government websites like the CIA and NSA to send Cyphirs accross the world wide web to anyone and no one would even know it.

As for 911, maybe it’s the 911 emergency number? maybe it’s the significane to the date of military operations in Iraq during the gulf war? or a day of vengence? 911, alot of military actions took place on those days, such as the coup de’etat Chile september 11 1973.

And why would I want to save a cookie?

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