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back to article Suspected Chinese NASA spy smuggled smut not state secrets

After a dramatic airport arrest by the FBI, which had been tipped off by a Republican congressman, the data concealed by a former NASA scientist with a one-way ticket to China has been revealed as pirated porn, not the secrets to the next interstellar drive. In March Dr. Bo Jiang, 31, a former employee of the National Institute …

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Devil

Last line

"one wonders if yet another mistake has been made that will cost the US in the long run."

America is shooting itself in the foot so often lately that you have to wonder just what sort of idiocy is around the corner.

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Re: Last line

You haven't seen the movie "Idiocracy"?

GO AWAY! I'M 'BATIN!"

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Trollface

Re: Last line

Doctor: [laughs] Right, kick ass. Well, don't want to sound like a dick or nothin', but, ah... it says on your chart that you're fucked up. Ah, you talk like a fag, and your shit's all retarded. What I'd do, is just like... like... you know, like, you know what I mean, like...

Doctor: Don't worry, scrote. There are plenty of 'tards out there living really kick-ass lives. My first wife was 'tarded. She's a pilot now.

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Re: Last line

"Water? Like from the toilets?"

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I'm at a US University and there is a huge population of researchers from China. Engineering is a challenging subject for a someone who has come through US schooling and if Congress bans Chinese nationals from NASA then there won't be any more rockets.

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Chinese rockets

Don't worry if you kick out all the Chinese there are still lots of Russian physics grad students.

Failing that - you can kidnap a few Nazi's

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Headmaster

Re: Chinese rockets

>> Failing that - you can kidnap a few Nazi's

Is that ein Großer Apostrophe?? !

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No, plenty of rockets, you don't really thing that Elon Musk and Burt Rutan only hired American brains, it's NASA job to pull all the dead wood in and leave the brains for private firms.

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Headmaster

Re: Chinese rockets

Doesn't look like a bigger apostrophe to me, looks pretty normal-sized actually.

Das ist ein Lebensmittelladen Apostroph, obwohl.

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Re: Chinese rockets @Colin Wilson 2

Oh. Well played, sir!

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Sel
WTF?

Steno-pornography?

Large quantities of images are perfect for hiding source code in the low bits.

Porn gives a plausible excuse for concealing the media.

How can they know that there is no encrypted source code in those image files?

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Re: Steno-pornography?

>How can they know that there is no encrypted source code in those image files?

Probably because based on the absolutely pathetic state of network security in government the Chinese long ago pilfered the code.

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Holmes

Re: Steno-pornography?

That's exactly what I was thinking. And I don't have enough faith in the FBI to assume that they considered that possibility.

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Re: Steno-pornography?

"How can they know that there is no encrypted source code in those image files?"

Because they most likely looked? More than once?

Remember, this was a case trumpeted from the rooftops and a pet case of a congressman. Don't bet that they didn't go over everything with a fine toothed comb, trying to find anything, anything at all that wouldn't leave them looking like a bunch of chumps.

Shows how squeaky clean he was that the best face saving move they could make was huff, "Well, since you were leaving anyway, Get out and stay out!"

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Re: Steno-pornography?

Probably by getting original copies of said pr0n and comparing them bit-by-bit. Also probably by watching them very carefully, over and over again, just in case there was some subtle political or technological message in "Big Girl Needs Big Dildo".

But who says he was not on the make, given the Great Firewall and China's anti-pr0n laws, maybe his stash of gentleman's entertainment was part of a pension plan?

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Happy

Re: Steno-pornography?

"How can they know that there is no encrypted source code in those image files?"

True. It is difficult to prove a negative (but I'd suggest the originals for all of his collection can be found and a comparison run. The match should be perfect.

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Happy

Re: Steno-pornography?

"Probably because based on the absolutely pathetic state of network security in government the Chinese long ago pilfered the code."

Also true.

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Happy

Re: Steno-pornography?

What is this? Some kind of one-handed shorthand? Or are we talking about SteGAno-pornography?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Steno-pornography?

'..but I'd suggest the originals for all of his collection can be found and a comparison run. The match should be perfect.'

From the story

'..the data concealed by a former NASA scientist with a one-way ticket to China has been revealed as pirated porn'

There's the problem, pirated.

Assuming he's copied original DVDs, you'd then have to track down the original porn, then, for this comparison, run them through all available/possible converters to generate copies with whatever identified codec/bitrate the files that are on his system have.

Assuming the usual torrent stuff, then yes, a direct bit by bit comparison is possible, but..

Assuming I was in the business of hiding things by steganography (e.g. a spy), and knew there was an outside chance I might be caught, I'd have the files renamed (e.g. omgcutekittensreally01.avi, omgmorecutekittens02.avi etc.) and then claim that they've been renamed 'to hide my shame' and transcoded to 'save disk space' from vague files 'downloaded off the internet but now deleted so I cant remember what the originals were called'.

So, you'd then have to perform the same transcoding on the originals, having first trawled the interwebs for said Porn originals and then identifying which local files are the equivalent of the internet ones (e.g. omgcutekittensreally01.avi == reallyhotslutsinpikachucostumes.avi)...

That's an awful lot of Porn to watch and transcode..still, they could 'crowdsource' the job to the 4chan mob..get it done in jig time, umm, 'single handedly' as it were...

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Holmes

Re: Steno-pornography?

I was thinking the same thing - the classified info can be encrypted into the porn. The thing is, that type of encryption is like a book code, it's totally undetectable unless you have the key.

Alternately the guy was tipped off and he swapped the real data for porn.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Steno-pornography?

Wouldn't you get video corruption/artifacts if you tried to insert a SIZABLE amount of data into a video stream?

I guess that if you were careful, you could insert a bit of data here and there, but isn't the whole point of video and audio compression techniques to NOT have any useless data lying about?

For example, you could put some data getting put into each frame on the bottom right corner. Or say same thing, but each 10th frame only. But how much will you be able to put it before it becomes blindingly obvious?

I am not knocking steganography, but I would bet that it is best used on low volume, pre-arranged code phrase type messaging. Not pages and pages of NASA Powerpoints.

Surely some sharp-eyed G-men would surely have caught it while while examining the evidence in ahem... great detail.

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Facepalm

Re: Steno-pornography?

Why would someone physically haul such a load through customs with all risks that come with it, when he could have just as easily set up a shell acount at some anomymous hosting provider and seed a few torrent files from there.

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Well he was right

Senator Wolf 's press release (before the discovery) said:

"I am particularly concerned that (the) information (on Jiang's laptop) may pertain to the source code for high-tech imaging technology that Jiang has been working on with NASA. This information could have significant military applications for the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army."

Assuming a digital camera is a high-tech imaging device and Chinese squadies like jazz mags then he was technically correct.

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Facepalm

Re: Well he was right

Because he'd have just walked into a starbucks, opened up a VPN home and uploaded the data somewhere... why bother with carrying it....

its only source code after all!

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Trollface

Re: Well he was right

>its only source code after all!

Lol and in fact it would still take a government even with nearly endless resources longer to figure out the spaghetti garbage my company calls source than to write it themselves. The ultimate way to secure source code. Make sure nobody can understand it.

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Unhappy

Re: Well he was right

"Lol and in fact it would still take a government even with nearly endless resources longer to figure out the spaghetti garbage my company calls source than to write it themselves. The ultimate way to secure source code. Make sure nobody can understand it."

You program in M ?

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Yag
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Trollface

The ultimate way to secure source code

Corollary : The ultimate way to secure job.

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Alert

Old school

Why bother carrying anything out? Just bring some spyware in. Given recent revelations regarding trojan programs sitting for years on computers having sensitive information, the idea of someone actually hand carrying information out is at best nostalgic.

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Anonymous Coward

stAganography?

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Devil

Don't give them ideas.

Seeing how pr0nz are involved, the Good Republican Congressman's arterial tension must already gone dangerously close to levels afflicting red-faced prussian schoolmasters.

"but this was dismissed on the proviso that he leave the country within 48 hours"

"Leave town. Tonight. Now. And when you are gone, you stay gone. Or you be gone."

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Anonymous Coward

"Seeing how pr0nz are involved, the Good Republican Congressman's arterial tension must already gone dangerously close to levels afflicting red-faced prussian schoolmasters."

It always puzzles me that many Republicans, and many British Tories, espouse libertarian policies when it comes to accumulating their own money - yet seem to feel that they have a moral right to proscribe other people's lives*.

* particularly concerning sex, governance, or science

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it's not brain surgery is it?

Without all them damn foreigners, the US rockets would still be tipping over on the launchpad.

En the moon would be colonised by the USSR by now.

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FAIL

MAFIAA fail?

If his bags contained "...nothing more than pirated films...", how come he's not under lock and key as a threat to the Western world's economy as the RIAA and pals would have us think?

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I thought piracy made you a terrorist? Shouldn't he be off to the CIA's holiday camp in Cuba?

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Re: MAFIAA fail?

That sort of theft would be at least $8 billion by my copyright math.

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As if you would carry out by hand what you could encrypt and transmit so easily

The congressman and FBI were played for fools. As if you would carry out by hand what you could encrypt and transmit so easily.

The fact remains that NASA broke the rules hiring a foreign national from a non-allied nation for a classified project. And it is doing that then data is being stolen.

Israel is certainly not the only country that spies on the USA.

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Steganography

The nom-de-plum "Captain DaFt".. more appropriately "Captain Daft".

Even if the FBI/CIA/NSA looked.. they could not detect the steganographic data. That is because the data being hidden is encrypted FIRST before being hidden in the low order bits of the image data/video frames. Encrypting data causes the data to look completely random (if using good encryption). If the FBI doesn't have the key, they can't see the data and it looks like low order bit noise in imagery data that normally has low order bit noise. Being nearly 'white noise' in characteristic after encryption, statistical analysis may fail. (though the FBI might take the approach of comparing the porn to the noise behavior of commercial encoding systems for video/jpgs, which may NOT be white in their behavior - maybe more like pink noise. This could mean that the existence of 'white' noise in the low order bits might flag that steganography was being employed to hide something.)

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Re: Steganography

Or, they could just compare his digital copies to the originals he copied, the "white noise" would stand out like a sore thumb, and while decrypting it (or even proving it *was* encrypted data would be problematic, just it's existence would flag an "AHA! We were right all along!" reaction.

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Re: Steganography

You could compare it to thepiratebay copy of the film in question. If he was using thepiratebay to distribute the secret, then he wouldn't need to physically carry it home, but I guess he is physically carrying pirate bay material because the Chinese government are better at blocking it than the American government.

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Kudos America

We should congratulate Rep. Frank Wolf for his outstanding effort in stopping the illegal exportation of America's most prized cultural posessions - porn.

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Wouldn't this have counted as a NGOesque cultural outreach project to westernise all the poor communists (so poor we owe them trillions).

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Anonymous Coward

On a trip to China 20 years ago it was surprising to see how much pr0n was being openly sold on bookstalls. It seemed only second to their love of gambling.

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Happy

" It seemed only second to their love of gambling."

And man do the Chinese love gambling.

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No kidding! My first degree was software engineering and we had a lot of Chinese students on the course on visa's. Really seriously smart at coding. Unfortunately their experience of university in the UK went along the lines of.

1- Start your course and the university gives you a new name, usually 'Tim'.

2- Lose all your money playing mahjongg with your classmates.

3- Get a job at a restaurant, then lose all your wages playing mahjongg with your coworkers.

4- Go home after the first \ second semester.

It was seriously sad to see so much potential get pissed up the wall. Admittedly not everyone went that path but the majority did. To be fair for the English cohort it was alcohol, drugs and general partying that sent them home.

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After his visa expired he booked a one-way ticket home

or, as El Reg breathlessly put it when this story originally broke:

"...The Feds pounced after learning he apparently “was leaving the United States abruptly to return to China on a one-way ticket”..."

[http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/03/20/nasa_fbi_china_spy_arrest]

This followed by the obligatory avalanche of commentards pointing out that "... LOL!!! ROFL!!! China is teh stupid LOL!!! Idiot Spy Man should buy return ticket. Not so suspicious. LOL!!!..."

See how easy it is to be manipulated? Remember that, when you read the next a-whoopin' and a-hollerin' news report about the next bogeyman.

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FAIL

Re: After his visa expired he booked a one-way ticket home

This.

The first story left out the part about his visa expiring. Of course it would be a one way ticket and hence completely benign.

This more than anything is why I don't put much stock into news stories. They are always missing critical information. I wish there were real news people out there. The kind that grab a story and run down all the angles. If they did this with any regularity I'd be okay with follow on commentary. However they don't. They grab a couple bits of info, come up with some outlandish theory then proceed to destroy people's lives without any thought or concern for the impact.

What I want is simple: depth. Not parroting whatever happens to be floating on the AP wire, that is meaningless. No, I want a news person to actually ask questions and NOT PUBLISH until they have enough facts to support it. News agencies have lost all credibility and won't be able to regain it until they start publishing their source/supporting material. We should hold them to the same ( or better ) standards as a peer reviewed journal instead of just accepting they have as much credibility as a grocery store tabloid with a picture of yet another Martian baby with 3 heads being born.

This guy was ruined for having nothing more than what numerous college kids have on their laptops: pirated porn, music and/or movies. Complete FAIL for NASA, FBI,congress and the reporting media. Any fallout from this serves US right.

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Anonymous Coward

porn or no porn

we will never know for sure, if it was porn, or something else, and what deals, off-camera might have been made about his one-way departure. USA need Chinese support in a few issues, rather urgently now, so.... we'll never know what really happened. And now, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, or practician, I'm just saying... various scenarios are possible, regardless of what they say publicly.

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Anonymous Coward

When something incriminating in a police/press/politician's statement looks like stupid behaviour of the accused - then look for wishful spin.

IIRC several UK high profile raids on "terrorists" ended with no terrorist activities being found. However the final Police reports often emphasised that the people had committed other offences - including "kiddie pr0n". These offences usually turned out to be minor - and the latter just one unprosecutable thumbnail in a cache. The sort of thing that a trawl of a random sample of the UK population might turn up.

Too often after an arrest the Police announce that "there was insufficient evidence for a charge" - instead of "no evidence was found to support the Police's allegations". The more innocent one is - the more "soft intelligence" classes one as a very clever criminal. Honi soit qui mal y pense.

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It's very awkward for the police to accuse someone only to find they made a mistake. In the UK, and even more so in the US where the position of prosecutor is very political. So they go on a trawl - and handily enough, there are enough laws that everyone must have broken at least a few of them.

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Unhappy

Americans may also like to "thank" ol'Wolfie for cutting the 3rd CCiCAP award in half

After all just because a composite, human rated lifting body is the most advanced human rated spacecraft currently being designed in the US at the present time why bother spending money on it when Spacex and Boeing are building capsules like the Russians.

Once again Sen Wolfe has demonstrated what a friend to NASA he is.

And with friends like that....

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