Steganography is becoming the tool of choice for a whole cadre of criminals a lot more daunting than these putative Borises and Natashas. It’s been used to exfiltrate sensitive data in corporate espionage, state sponsored espionage, and oddly enough--by gangs.
What’s odd here is that the SVR went with such an old-school steganography method, one that leaves traceable evidence. Because there’s a lot better stuff out there....
Instead of leaving behind an artifact of your wrong-doing for the Justice Department to download, new stego programs use ephemeral channels that disappear when the communication has been completed. It’s called network steganography. You can do it in real time, you can transmit huge amounts of data, and you can do it without leaving behind any artifacts to implicate you.
If the Russian spies had known about these new protocols, they might not have gotten caught so handily. You can bet that the non-Russian spies in the United States (insert your own xenophobia here) are using more sophisticated methods to phone home. (more)