Keeping your private and personal data safe and secure is important and there are various ways to accomplish this. This is usually achieved by password protecting and encrypting your files so nobody but you can access them with the correct password. Or you can protect your files with disk encryption using something like TrueCrypt. These are great, but what if you want to send a secret or important file to a friend or relative, or simply want to keep a few files on your system out of the way so no-one can see them?
One of the easiest ways to protect a file, is for nobody but you to know it exists in the first place. If no-one can see and don’t even know there is a file containing a personal document or password file, how can they do anything about it? The term Steganography put simply is hiding a message in such a way that no-one else knows it exists apart from you and the person you’re sending it to, and the idea has been around for a long time.
There are a number of tools around for your PC to be able to do this and they work in different ways. One way is to merge your information into a media file so that your data is embedded inside the data of the file. This is very secure but severely limited in what files you can use to “carry” the hidden data and what data type or size you can hide. Another method is attaching an encrypted file onto the end of another file so it’s still hidden, but the limitations on the type of carrier files and what you can hide isn’t nearly so restrictive.
Here’s 5 ways to hide a file inside another file thus making it invisible to anyone but you and anyone you choose to send the file to.
1. Our Secret
Our Secret is capable of allowing you to hide one, or a number of files or simple text messages inside another file while also giving the option to password protect the data as well. The program is very easy to use and breaks down the process into a simple series of steps to hide or unhide the data. Select the file to carry the hidden data, choose the file(s) to hide or type in a text message, enter a password for that extra layer of security, and then simply click Hide.
What’s good about this is you can use as the carrier almost any type of file including images,video and music files as well as executables, office documents and even archives including 7z and Zip. The only type of file it doesn’t really work on is text based files like txt files, xml files and Html pages etc.
The program itself is only a single executable which can be extracted from the installer with Universal Extractor using an updated Inno Setup Unpacker. Do be aware the installer itself downloads adware setup files in the background and will offer these during install, make sure to “Decline”. Our Secret works on Windows XP and above.
Clotho is a software that can attach and hide your files, and in this case even a whole folder into another file so you can hide a complete batch of files at once. The program is pretty easy to use and simply a case of choosing your carrier or “Mask” file as this program calls it, select the file or folder to hide and change the output name if you want something else.
The type of mask file supported is wide ranging and can be a video, music or image file, an archive file, executable or MSI file and also a component file such as DLL or VBX. There’s also some extra encryption options that can be applied such as scrambling the data bit and encrypting the file with a password. Compress Data will try to reduce the file size and works in certain cases. An interesting function is the WinRAR Compatibility Mode which makes the hidden data accessible through WinRAR or 7-Zip while the carrier file still works as an image or executable etc. This is a less secure mode though and not recommended for important data.
Although Clotho is an adware free setup installer you can easily extract the standalone executable file using 7-Zip or WinRAR etc.
ImageHide is a little more restrictive in what it can hide, in this case you can only choose to hide a selection of text which you can type or load in through right clicking the text area and selecting a text file to open. By going to the Encrypt button the text can then be scrambled with the use of a password. The Write Data button will then embed this text into the image, and finally choosing Save Image will write the image back out in either BMP or PNG format complete with the hidden text.
Although it can only use images to carry the data, you can choose from around 30 different file types including standard Windows formats (GIF, PNG, TIF), Adobe Photoshop images, Paint Shop Pro and Autodesk images etc.
ImageHide is a portable executable and although it hasn’t been updated for a while, works fine on Windows 7.
Amazingly, even though Camouflage actually pre-dates Windows XP and is from 2001, it still works perfectly fine and on Windows 7 too! This program works slightly differently in that it integrates with the Explorer context menu and when you want to hide a file or files, simply select, right click and select Camouflage from the menu. Wizard style dialog windows will then ask for the carrier file, an output filename and an optional password.
Just about any type of file can be used as the carrier file and anything can be hidden, it’s up to you to use your common sense as attaching large files onto small carrier files could possibly arouse suspicion. Getting the hidden files back is simply a case of right clicking on the carrier file and selecting Uncamouflage to reverse the process and get back one or all of the hidden files.
Camouflage needs installing because of the context menu integration and if you want to make the context menu entries less suspicious, there’s an option window where you can change the Camouflage and Uncamouflage names to whatever you wish. The program has been tested and works fine on Windows 7.
5. Using the Windows Command Prompt
This method is rather basic and isn’t especially secure, but is still a valid way of hiding a file inside another file and making it invisible. It’s done simply by using the Command Prompt and the DOS Copy command and joining the files together. If you do this though, the hidden file has to be readable by a 3rd party program and the easiest way to do it is create a ZIP, RAR or 7z archive. It can also be password encrypted it if you wish. Then attach the archive to an image or music file.
Here’s a simple example which will attach the Hiddenfile.zip onto the Music.mp3 and output a combined file called Filehiddeninmusic.mp3:
Copy Music.mp3 /b + Hiddenfile.zip /b Filehiddeninmusic.mp3
This file is then playable in a music player such as Windows Media Player, but if you open it with an archiver such as 7-Zip or WinRAR the files inside the archive will be viewed instead! The /b tells the copy command that the file is a binary file and the + sign simply tells copy to append the 2nd file to the 1st.
You can also use images as the carrier file as well as music and also executable files work as well, although video files do not seem to work. Anything can go in the archive file.