With the US National Security Agency (NSA) being recently linked to high-tech surveillance, a former contractor has created a new font that he claims will thwart such snooping.Sang Mun described the font, dubbed ZXX, as "a disruptive typeface" that he said would be unreadable by automated text scanning software.
A video shows how the typeface confuse Optical Character Recognition (OCR) artificial intelligence:
"The project started with a genuine question: How can we conceal our fundamental thoughts from artificial intelligences and those who deploy them? I decided to create a typeface that would be unreadable by text scanning software (whether used by a government agency or a lone hacker) — misdirecting information or sometimes not giving any at all," he said.
According to him, he drew six different cuts - Sans, Bold, Camo, False, Noise and Xed - to "generate endless permutations, each font designed to thwart machine intelligences in a different way."
He said ZXX's name is derived from the US Library of Congress’ listing of three-letter codes denoting the language of a book.
Code “ZXX” is used when there is: “No linguistic content; Not applicable,” he said.
No protection from NSA
But security researcher Graham Cluley said ZXX is a messed-up font that "will NOT protect you from the NSA."
Regardless of whether you communicate electronically using Sang Mun’s font, Comic Sans or something more traditional, it makes *no* difference to anyone spying electronically on your communications.
Cluley said the messages one sends via email, instant messaging or social networks are composed of bytes, with each letter of the message represented by one single byte.
He said computers spying on communications see not the the font but a bunch of numbers that they reassemble into characters and eventually words, phrases and sentences.
"So, it makes no difference to these computers if a font, for example, disguises a capital 'T' as a capital 'G,'" he said.
Cluley said that while ZXX could disrupt OCR technology, the NSA could just "add knowledge of the font to their arsenal and extend their expert systems to decipher it from images in the same way they might handle the likes of Comic Sans, Windings and Times Roman."
"It’s a nice art project by Sang Mun, but I don’t think anyone serious about keeping their conversations private from the-powers-that-be will be rushing to add it to their portfolio of privacy tools," he said.
— TJD, GMA News