Saturday, August 18, 2018

Ways to Hide Something

Okay, secret agents, here are a few ways to hide something. This knowledge might be useful to spies, victims of political and religious persecution, those with sketchy roommates, and more.

1. Cover it. Put a tarp over it. Put a blanket or newspaper over your tablet on the car seat. Paint it. Plaster it. Put a patina on it. Bury it. Put it in a drawer. Put it under or behind a drawer. Put a cell phone tower into a windmill frame, church steeple, or other enclosing structure.

2. Put it where no one looks. Some people used to hide money, drugs, cigarettes, etc. by taping them to the lid of a toilet tank. The news got out, eventually, so that's no longer a place where no one looks. Ditto with the freezer. But what about under the cat? In a light bulb? In a funerary urn?

3. Blend it into the background. This is the chameleon effect. For example, a microphone or camera that looks like a pencil can then be put into a dozen or two real pencils. Camouflage it.

4. Mix it. Mix the gold dust into a bag of construction sand and place the bag with other bags of sand. In fact, you could hide many different items this way. The most dramatic form of mixing, perhaps, is steganography, where data is mixed into the pixels of a photograph. I read recently that the Russians are doing this. I attended the old Comdex computer show one year and bought some software that encoded and decoded information into photographs. I imagine it is still available.

5. Mail it to yourself. While the information is in the mail, it is protected from thieves raiding your house or office.

6. Commonize it. This disguise technique makes something valuable look ordinary or worthless. Example: Wearing homeless attire instead of fancy preppy clothes.

7. Divert attention from it. Create a misdirection, diversion, or fake version. Example: The big safe in the closet carries only ordinary paperwork. The valuables are in a hidden safe. Or, the heavy steel door with the big lock and alarm, and the sign that says, "Warning: Authorized Personnel Only," is the janitor's closet and the simple door marked, "Janitor," is the door to the secret room.

8. Hide it in plain sight. This is the classic "best practice" ploy. Example:  Turn the currency into a valuable coin (some pennies are worth more than $50,000), and put it into a pile of loose change in a cup on the dresser. Or buy a rare stamp and put in on an envelope or postcard left on the table. This was used in a detective story many years ago. I remember another plot from a show years ago where the secret information was put on a microdot that was glued to the end of a sentence in place of a period.

9. Make it look like something else. One current example is disguising cell phone towers to look like trees or other objects. Many people become fixated on an idea or concept of something and this blinds them to things that are disguised. "We're looking for a book, and that's just a pack of paper napkins."

10. Encode it. Information can be hidden by using codes, ciphers, symbols, maps, and many other tools. Plain text encoded into readable language is a great method. For example, if you encode, "Meet me at midnight" into "TXSE JE UI WIERPMGH," it will be obvious that you are using an encrypted message. But if "Meet me at midnight" encodes to "We have mice again," then it is not so obvious that a hidden message is involved.