Random Parcel Launches Steganographic Compulsion

A mysterious CD arrives in the mail with a weird handwritten code on it. What should you do? Put it in the computer and play the thing, of course!

Some might be screaming at their screens right now… this is how modern horror films start and before you know it the undead are lurking behind you waiting to strike. Seasonal thrills aside, this is turning into an involved community effort to solve the puzzle. [Johny] published the video and posted a thread on reddit.

We ran a similar augmented reality game to launch the 2014 Hackaday Prize solved by a dedicated group of hackers. It’s really hard to design puzzles that won’t be immediately solved but can eventually be solved with technology and a few mental leaps. When we come across one of these extremely clever puzzles, we take note.

This has all the hallmarks of a good time. The audio spectrogram shows hidden data embedded in the file — a technique known as steganography. There are some real contortions to make meaning from this. When you’re looking for a solution any little hit of a pattern feels like you’ve found something. But searching for the decrypted string yields a YouTube video with the same name; we wonder if they’ve tried to recover steganographic data from that source?

[Johny] mentions that this parcel was unsolicited and that people have suggested it’s a threat or something non-sensical in its entirety. We’re hoping it’s a publicity stunt and we’re all disappointed in the end, because solving the thing is the best part and publicity wouldn’t work if there was no solution.

The bright minds of the Hackaday community should be the ones who actually solve this. So get to work and let us know what you figure out!

49 thoughts on “Random Parcel Launches Steganographic Compulsion

  1. while you run it through your processes

    a little more

    I used google image search on the stills

    and found this

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:3sfIM7Zcsn4J:www.tritontv.com/01100101+&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

    April 16, 2015
    Triton TV

    site doesn’t seem to exist any more and cant find the specific image although they do seem to be a production company student type thing

    https://web.archive.org/web/20150920071126/http://www.tritontv.com/?page_id=50

  2. Oh joy, viral marketing.

    And I was indeed screaming at the screen, but not about zombie bullshit but about sony crap and such that will be installed if you try to play a CD on a computer. Probably into your goddamn device firmware through undocumented ‘features’ these days.

  3. lol that ” weird handwritten code” is a base64 encoded string. It decodes to “aa%u0102U%u?Uacga”. From the formatting, id say it wants you to figure out the second ‘missing’ unicode character. This string is probably pretty important, like maybe a cipher key or something.

    1. Only virus I know that persisted from PC to PC for years.

      Years ago, in my early hacking days I took an interest in those recovery PC discs in order to extract some of the pack in software offered for free. Such as the Lotus suite for IBM or the “cool” little sketching screen savers that came with PacBells or more specifically, whatever games I could find. Problem was you couldn’t install the software without reinstalling the OS and whatever other crappy pack in software such as AOL.

      A lot of these discs were really just obsfuscated password protected compressed files with a small autorun file. Reverse engineer the starting script or program and you get the password. One recovery disc for a PC with very a strong AOL tie-in was… yep… AmericaOnline (or something along those lines).

    2. Yeah, something about this stinks… And if you play with shit, you get your hands dirty.

      One day you people will wish you had just played Sudoku…. There are things you simply cannot unwatch, or undownload; things that could put you away for years.

        1. I don’t get the reference.

          However, in an era when porn is used for revenge and data theft is running rampant, I would hate to be the person who downloads what appears to be an innocent puzzle, which turns out to be something much darker… Like a list of military personnel, or undercover operatives.

  4. If you read through the gadgetzz thread, there’s some violent/NSFW stuff encoded in the video that has already been discovered. I think you should make a not of that in this hackaday post just so people know what they’re getting themselves into.

  5. Well according to the new triton television site, “Something great is coming soon” So, I am going to guess this is part of the run up to the something great. This is viral marketing is it?

    1. Im not sure how those mp3 download sites work, but im pretty sure they return bogus results based on common search terms. the only interesting thing is that it somehow made a relation between “united states infantry” and 11B-X-1371.
      maybe someone just thought it would be funny to google that string combination a bunch of times so that it gets indexed.

    1. I’ve been wondering about those too (though I just ran strings on the ISO), but I thought were are insignificant. The long numbers appear to be date/time code, which matches file date “Sat May 9, 2015 18:53”.

  6. Something is off here.

    If you get the VOB from the ISO, pull out audio and visualize the spectrogram of the sound played in the DVD menu, here’s what you get:

    The spectrum is cut abruptly at around 13kHz.

    However, image presented in the title here, which is probably pulled from the gadgetzz.com, extends all the way up to 19kHz.

    Either the ISO image is bogus, or the posted image is created by analyzing a different audio file, presumably the original, which somehow got chopped during DVD authoring.

    1. That’s because it’s compressed (with mp3, aac or other lossy audio compressions) which usually cut off frequencies that a human ear can’t hear. Use lossless audio formats such as wav or flac.

      1. Could you please elaborate here? Use where, exactly? All I have at my disposal is an ISO file, from which I can extract the VOB files. I then extract VOB audio stream to a PCM wav file using ffmpeg, like so:

        ffmpeg -i VIDEO_TS.VOB -f wav -o title.wav

        This title.wav is what I subsequently analyze using Audacity and Sonic Visualizer. With equal result. To make sure that it’s not some ffmpeg defect, I captured raw audio via Soundflower on OSX when playing the ISO using Mac DVD player. The result is exactly the same, again. If you could suggest me another method that would be nice.

        1. It appears youtube user aetbx was the first to upload this video on May 9 2015. Searching for his username looks like he was a graphics artist at the university in Murcia, Spain. The most recent postings of this video have the AETBX watermark removed. I think this is why I couldn’t get the full skull image either as it was cutoff when converted from the original. Not sure how gadgetzz got the full skull image as searching Google Image for that I’m guessing this was just a project he did for class. Doesn’t make the pictures hidden in the audio any less disturbing though.

          1. The title says “muerte”, description “Te queda 1 año, menos”. In any case, the audio in aetbx’s youtube is chopped all the same, it’s worse actually, there are multiple images of every frequency: it was resampled. Somehow I don’t think he really made it. Added a watermark and poorly reencoded is more likely.

            The new youtube video seems to be the only source of full audio. It made the magic eye pictures obvious to read. Quite predictably, they say “you die”.

    2. Does this mean the person that first starting making these ‘discoveries’ has the original files because they made it, but when they authored it onto the DVD they accidentally let it encode it into a compressed format? Whoops!

      Else the copy should very much be 1:1

      Just a guess how this could happen, but would not be surprised.

  7. MGnySgt,

    Why not just directly outline what you want?

    Unless it is, that you want abject failure, whilst being able to pretend that there was ever a chance, choice, or even simple understanding.

    -blind to subtext

  8. This might be the “solution”:
    http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message2982029/pg20

    “Ok. Please listen/read.

    This video is a viral for next years film Inferno.

    It is another Dan Brown Film.

    It was supposed to come out this year, but it has been rescheduled for next year. October 14th 2016

    Almost a year for the video to do the rounds and then it be discovered it is for the film Inferno.

    There is a video in the book which is almost the same as the video posted. Obviously Hollywood like to tart it up a bit.

    But the premise is a mad dressed as a plague doctor with a video doing hand gestures and hidden meanings. A hidden countdown and coordinates. All of that

    The storyline is basically a man who has had enough of how terrible the world and how over populate the world is, that he releases a virus into the water stream.

    It causes infertility in about 9 out of 10 people and skips the odd generation.

    Inferno was supposed to come out this year but was put back because of Star Wars.

    They have released the viral in order to get the interest going so the film will still be able to gain interest within the next year.

    Its release date is 14th October 2016.”

    1. The NSFL stuff and the fact that this video was posted May 9th originally kinda puts a hole in that theory. no marketing company wants to find itself embroiled in a controversy about releasing torture/snuff stuff

  9. I found an interesting Still at 1:37 where the figure seems to be staring at a superimposed message reading “E2 E3 FLC”
    Which if googled brings up info on altering flowering and reproductive times and rates of vegetation, I just thought this was interesting given the last post about the premise of inferno having to do with a virus creating infertility in the human population.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3883301/
    Viral promo or in light of the graphic images hidden in the audio a real life copy cat? The technology exists to alter flora anyhow. Just a thought.

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