Computer scientists have come up with a way to develop software which will be able to stash away highly sensitive data on hard drives – all without requiring the use of any form of encryption. This is made possible by controlling the precise disk locations that will hold the file’s data fragments. The application will be released as a form of open-source software (hooray!), where it will rely on steganography – which is similar to the ancient art of hiding secret information in plain sight. This technique has been employed since time immemorial to make sure that sensitive data remains safely out of the hands of adversaries. This clever use of encryption, is extremely easy to detect, where you are able to tip off adversaries that a hard drive or other piece of media contains information considered secret.

This software makes sure that the individual disk clusters which will hold the sensitive data fragments will be positioned in a way that has been predetermined by their code. Whoever wants to read said secret information will be required to use a similar application to reassemble the file. According to the inventors, their method makes it very possible to stealthily store a 20MB message on a 160GB portable hard drive.

The researchers hail from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad, Pakistan, and claim that the technique might result in a slight performance degradation, but the payoff might be well worth it.

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