Russian spies laced digital images with secret messages as part of a plan to infiltrate the United States policy-making process, FBI agents have alleged.

The 21st century version of invisible ink is said to involve sending images via the internet that appear perfectly harmless, except to the sender and receiver of the picture.

One such method is known as Steganography, a process made possible using software which can be downloaded for free from the internet.

An example of this type of software is Quick Stego which, its creator says, ?lets you hide text in pictures so that only other users of Quick Stego can retrieve and read the hidden secret messages’.

The software developer adds: ‘Once text is hidden in an image the saved picture is still a ?picture?, it will load just like any other image and appear as it did before.

Methods for embedding text include closely matching the colour of the message to that used in the rest of the image – the minor variation not being noticeable to the naked eye.

?The image can be saved, emailed, uploaded to the web as before, the only difference being that it contains hidden text.’

Users can then encrypt the image using ‘QuickCrypto’ software, allowing them to securely encrypt text and files and even hide files on a computer.

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