An Algorithmic and Social Introduction to Computer Science (CSC-105 2000S)

Describe a technique we can use to conceal information.



Encoding information seems to be a decent way to conceal it, although I'm sure all codes can be broken. While the 'decoder ring' strategy of shifting every piece of data some set number of places up or down seems relatively easy to crack, a code based upon something only the author has or knows (like the books in their bookcase, or address book listings, or something like that) might be a little more secure. A code that frequently changes would be even better. Nevertheless, a code is no good if you can't decode your own information easily, and the best way to conceal information is never to transmit it publicly in the first place.


since i wasn't in class today, i can't tell if this question is deliberately vague or refers to something presented in class today. as of now, i'll have to assume the first so i hope my response isn't totally off. a technique we can use to conceal information... well, i'm assuming this question is also computer-specific so i'm thinking along the lines of the internet? some ways people i know conceal information are by entering fake names and addresses when they are required to submit one to access some information on a site. my father, who is definitely the most paranoid man i know, has a program on his computer called guard dog which has to be the most annoying thing ever invented. it growls and interrupts your web-browsing whenever your name or e-mail or any personal information about you is about to be transmitted over the web so you can stop it. it also lets you know if a site is about to send you a cookie (a term i'm not sure i fully understand), which you can also stop. these are the most obvious ways i know of concealing information in regards to the web. you can also use a public computer which doesn't require a login like our campus ones do.


I'm not really sure that I feel like I know enough about encryption to answer this question really adequately, but I have a guess. In a system where operations regarding information are storage in memory and retrieval from memory, I think it might be a successful strategy to use a random number generator to code the description of the location of a document. In that case, the number could be memorized and used by legitimate users to access the information. (or the number could be linked to a password access code such that the password accessed the numerical desription of the location of the information, though I am unsure how I might describe this algorithmically) The benefit of this idea for filing documents is that it would randomly select a storage area, which seems like an extra level of security on an abstract level because you are not just placing the file under the protection of a password, you are hiding the location away from a systematic location (which, I guess, would make it harder to hack into using a "back door.") I can see this might create potential problems, in that a sophisticated programmer could probably construct a relatively simple program which could run through all the possible numerical codes in a certain timeframe, so the number would need to be long enough to make this type of attack less of a threat.

When I think about the question in a basic way, I might say simply setting a password barrier up...or setting permissions to off on the internet, but if it is a more algorithmic design being sought out, I am lost for an answer. I fear I don't know where to set my thoughts on this question in the context of what I know about computer fundamentals.

I am sure my computer programmer systems analyst father (guess that's why I'm in the class) could answer this question better, but I don't exactly know what else I would do without knowing more about potential structures of data encryption--so it should be an interesting class exploration. I think hints are a particularly effective type of invitation for more interesting thoughts on any subject at times.



Put the information being communicated in a language that cannot be understood by anyone except the receiver. The allies in W.W.II were very successful with this technique. Native Americans were recruited to transmit military communications in their native languages. With computers, encryption communicates information in ways that cannot be understood by the common ear. The development of an encryption code that is constantly changing itself might prevent anyone from having unauthorized access to the information being transmitted.

The technique would embed the changes in the algorithm in the language being communicated. The receiving and sending computers could then have a constantly changing language. It would be more effective if the changes in the algorithm were not distinguishable from the information being communicated.


The easiest way to conceal information is just to burn it, bury it, or somehow get rid of it. But of course we want to allow some people to access the information, so I think the most basic obvious technique is the use of passwords. A lot of passwords are too simple and can be guessed, allowing easy access to the computer or other information system. So more complex codes or keys are being developed, such as voice recognition, fingerprinting, and retina and lip scans. These are harder to decode or dupe the code-reading machine to get illegal access. I think that no technique is completely reliable, though, because hackers are improving their equipment along with the people trying to conceal the information.


With "real-world" information, it is often easy to conceal information. To hide something you don't want someone to know about, it is often easy to misdirect them by lying about the information in question (the misinformation technique). If the people from whom the information is being concealed aren't aware of its concealment, then it's much easier to hide. Also, if you have the information in some physical form and would like to keep it from the eyes of others, it is also possible to lock it away in a safe, vault, or file cabinet the other person can't access without a key, combination, or other "password". (the password protection technique) It is also possible, if the person is expecting this information to be found, leave it in plain sight such that its nondescript manner makes it seem like unimportant information and therefore not worth looking at to determine if it is the information in question. (the plain sight technique, a variant of the misinformation technique) Another way to hide information is to put the information in a form which is only readable by certain people, who are the only ones who decode it. If the information is discovered, it will appear to be unimportant, indecipherable gibberish. (the encryption technique, a combination of the misinformation and password protection techniques; also more advanced than any of the previous in terms of ingenuity required)


Concealment is all about not letting other people know that something exists. So, in terms of information, you would want to have a security measure that made information that does exist appear as if it doesn't. Locking things isn't the best way because if someone knows it's there, they will probably find a way to get at it. Again the example of the comic strip. Even they didn't intend for things to be viewed that way, it existed, and there was a way to do it and someone found out. So invisibilty is the key. I don't know how to go about making something that exists invisible, but that seems to be the best method to conceal information. Encryption would be the next best thing, I think. While extremely high level codes can be cracked, it takes a while and someone who knows what they are doing. (Read "Cryptonomicon".)


Well, I guess that the most logical way to conceal information on the Web is to keep it private. This can be accomplished by having secured files, encrypted passwords, or keep it off the web. Not keeping a password the same for extended periods of time probably increases security, as would having an ambiguous or misleading file name to fool violators.

If you have information that needs to be concealed, it is probably best to hide as deeply or as covertly as possible. The more barriers that an intruder must go through to attain the information, the more difficult it will be for them. Of course the best means of protection is to keep information entirely out of the reach of intruders.

It's almost like hiding a cookie jar from a child: the first move is to put it out of their reach. Eventually, if they become resourceful enough to find a way tp reach the cookies, they will have to be hidden. If the cookie jar is found, then further steps must be taken to insure their security, such as putting the cookies in a "flour" jar. If the concealment tactics are effective, the child will eventually give up looking for the cookies.

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