Steganography NFT: What can it be used for?

This post is a follow-up to the official Zenon medium post on Steganography NFTs. In this post, I would like to open a discussion on the possible applications that Steganography enables in an NFT ecosystem.

It is important to understand the difference between Steganography and Cryptography from a use-case standpoint. Then you can argue that some of the use-cases for Steganography are actually possible to do with Cryptography.

Steganography is basically a higher level of security compared to Cryptography. When two parties are using cryptography, a third party can be aware of communication happening but they cannot reveal the actual messages being communicated. But Stegonagraphy is used when parties what to conceal the fact that communication is taking place and no third party can have a clue that some messages had been exchanged.

Steganography is expected to be a more resource-intensive process compared to cryptographic methods as it’s working with multimedia objects. So it is not logical to do an application using Steganography if it’s possible to be done by cryptography.

Examples:

Treasure hunt: An artist claims that in his next collection, only one of the NFTs contains a secret steganography text which is a 12 word phrase of a wallet with 1 BTC in it.

The fact that everyone knows that one NFT contains a message, makes it convenient to do this use-case by cryptography rather than Steganography.

For this case, we know that NFTs have metadata and the artist can add a reward attribute to the metadata of the NFT in a form of a cryptographic text and that reward is only unlockable by the owner’s private key. This attribute is empty for all the NFTs in the collection except for the one that is a treasure.

Some other examples of lottery, access to secret communities, discount codes, in-game items, and easter eggs, can similarly be done with cryptographic metadata.

The following is another example that also can be done with cryptography but I thought it’s cooler to do it with Steganography:

Multi Image NFT: An artist can list an NFT and claims it contains 5 arts in one file. If you buy it, you can unlock the file but you’ll only see 1 art out of 5. Depending on how many times this NFT had been passed on from one owner to another, the art content changes.

So in this forum, I wanted to ask the community to brainstorm on this matter and suggest use-cases for Steganography. I understand that sometimes we make doing things possible and we will be surprised by how creatively people will use it. But I think it’s worth raising the question at this stage.

What can we do with Steganography?

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Maybe some in game assets (NFTs), like a sword or gun, that have “programable” power. Maybe the power can be morphed or augmented by the player based on certain traits of the player. Basically smart objects in games.

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A lot of cool and fun things can be done with all the mysteries Zenon has.
I have a few ideas cooking in my head, can’t wait to start working on this!

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I get the idea, having a game object embedded within the NFT image. But this example also doesn’t have to be implemented with Steganography (the in-game object doesn’t have to be encoded into the image pixels) and could be implemented as a separate file linked to the NFT, therefore we avoid the intensive process of merging in the in-game object and the NFT image.

From the original article, the use case that stands out the most to me is this:

Use-case: Embedded Unlockable Content

I have been a victim, and I have to admit I have also benefitted, from pirated media content. The reason anything can be pirated (and it’s the same reason bitcoin should have not existed) is that anything digital, just represents binary data that can be copied. Bitcoin was able to solve the issue for money.

Can the Zenon NFT standard solve the issue for everything else? This is what I’m extremely interested in. The article claims counterfeits become obsolete. But how exactly?

Let’s say I mint a numbered series of 100 NFTs that contain a 20min video course on how to sharpen a knife. I publish the first edition on Youtube for everyone to see publicly. Each holder of the NFT can also do some cryptgraphy + steganography wizardry in s y r i u s to unlock the content of another 20 minutes of secret pro tricks on knife sharpening.

Why can’t the person just ‘save as’ the content as he is watching it?

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Well, to answer your last question I must say nothing stops them to ‘save as’ your content.
I explain my take on the article’s claim. quote from the article:

Moreover, adopting the Virtual Hologram will eradicate counterfeiting, the “Save as” method would be useless, as only the NFT holder will be able to authenticate the NFT using its embedded Virtual Hologram.

What this means is that there is something hidden inside the NFT that is only unlockable by the owner, so if other people ‘save as’ the NFT file they still cannot access the hidden content inside it. So that is why ‘save as’ is useless. But nothing is stoping the owner to copy the unlocked content.
So in your case, if someone buys the NFT and unlocks the video inside it, there’s nothing that can stop him/her from ‘save as’ or screen record your content and copy it somewhere else.

Now you mentioned it I did too think that this method can stop people from copying others’ NFTs as we can embed some information inside the pixels of the image/video that the network recognizes and deny any duplication of that image/video. But it’s obvious that editing the image is also as simple as copying it, so the virtual hologram can easily vanish if the person copying the file just changes the pixel saturation by 0.01 percent. So this is not possible to do with steganography!

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Perhaps there is a clever workaround to the issue if we think about it from the consumer side; instead of a fix to counterfeiting content we could mitigate it.

Would it be possible to stack two steganography layers on the same file? Meaning, the first layer unlocks the embedded content to the user, and the second layer hides the information like public address of owner, issue number, etc…

Once the unlockable content gets copied and redistributed, we could apply the same steganography techniques to figure out some information about the entity who did the copyright infringement.

Makes me wonder if there are current DRM techniques that employ cryptography/steganography in a similar way, and whether it’s effective or not.

It also makes me wonder what limiting factors applications would have with a ‘smart contract’ embedded in a virtual hologram if the owner is the only person capable of interacting with it.

It is possible to embed two layers of steganography on the same file. But regardless, current steganography algorithms are done in a very precise bit mapping approach. It means that if an image file has some steganography information inside, by changing only one bit (for example make one pixel of the image black) the whole steganography information inside the file will become unreadable.

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