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Mace & Crown | April 22, 2018

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Camo Text Stumps NSA?

Camo Text Stumps NSA?

Could Camouflaging Your Text Help Keep the NSA Out of Your Business?

That’s what an ex NSA contractor and designer, Sang Mun, seems to believe.  Mun has released several font types under the name ZXX.  These font types are Bold, Sans, Camo, False, Noise, and Xed.  The reasoning behind the creation of these font types is to trick Opical Character Recognition, or OCR, programs from deciphering messages online.  OCR is the most used form of data collection by the NSA and other organizations, so in theory, these font types should keep the NSA from cataloging internet users’ data.

The various font types are named the way they are to describe the function they serve.

Sans and Bold are classic font types that are easily read by both the naked eye, and OCRs.  These are clearly legible, and can be used in conjunction with the various OCR-tricking font types.

Camo uses natural vector curves to “camouflage” the text.  Munn says “…This is based on animals’ natural vector style camouflaging systems.”   Meaning that words are camouflaged with discordant and natural shapes.

False is essentially a flipped alphabet in which A is hidden within a larger Z, B within Y, and so on.  It is useful because it interrupts the hierarchy that OCRs scan for. The software will recognize a false garbled message and miss the intended one.

Noise may be one of the easiest font types to determine the meaning of.  It literally adds noise in the form of excess shapes to the letters, disrupting the OCRs process of determining the skeleton of the letter.

The most efficient yet easy to read of the OCR-fooling font types in the package is called Xed.  Xed does exactly what it sounds like, it X’s out each letter, number, and symbol.  This may seem like the easiest of the four to break, but in the several tests that were run, Xed had the most garbled results.  This is due to the markings the X’s produce in the four corners of each character’s box.

If this seems like it is too good to be true.  Well it might be.  Because the NSA is not a static organization, it is likely to add this new font type to its recognition software. While this new font style will work for now, the NSA will likely be able to recognize it globally within the month.

By Ryan McGovern

Contributing Writer

  • Ken Jones

    “OCR is the most used form of data collection by the NSA and other organizations, ”
    Really? The NSA prints out the emails it intercepts, and then OCRs them back into electronic storage. Sure thing, that makes sense for some who look for ways to foolishy describe the methodology of the American government, but not in my real life or yours.
    Sorry. This doesn’t pass the smell test.