ZXX Font & OCR

It is in all media that Edward Snowden has revealed the surveillance activities of the NSA. This act of spionage can be criticised as an break-in into the privacy of every person’s life.

Therefore Sang Mun has released a Font called ZXX which makes it more difficult for automated optical character recognition (OCR) programs to detect letters. Here a german article from the austrian online newspaper

I have looked on this font with great interrest and think that this could be a great way to avoid automated spionage from others.

When you watch the ZXX Type Secimen Video you will be surprised by how easy you can confuse OCR programs. The most interessting thing for me were the XED and the noise font. It just adds either a thin cross (X) or optimised “random” pixels to the letters where humans are still able to read the text pretty fast. This is not the case for the Camo Font. More to that later.

So thinking of this, why is a human being able to read the Xed and noised text, while computers can’t? The answer was simple for me. (this might not be scientifically proven). The human eye takes a look at a picture and tries to recognise something. If not it focuses or “zooms in and out” to remember the patterns we have all learned in early school years. Moreover we do not only have one point of view, we have two of them. There are two eyes with maybe two different focuspoints which makes us able to see letters behind all that camouflaging stuff. A very easy trick to solve CAPTCHAs and to read the ZXX font is to unfocus the stuff you want to read. It looks blurry. There was a program which I had in mind which can do this for me.

The False font can be easily trained as I have been trained by the video. One needs to search for a big letter, but does not take its information. Instead you search for another letter within the smallest rectangle you can fit around the big letter you just found.

The Camo font is a real hard one. If you simply read the Camo alphabet it is easy to see the letters, because you expect the very next letter. And with this image in mind you procet the vectors over the image you see where it is easy to recognise. Some sort of this is also used in examples of optical illusion.

You as human see a white triangle where really is none. You just have some points or “suggestions” of vectors and your brain finishes them to form this triangle.

Who is Edward Snowden?

Edward Snowden is a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked classified information about U.S. government surveillance programs to the media. He has been living in exile in Russia since 2013, when he was granted asylum there.

Snowden was born on June 21, 1983, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. He joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 2004 but was discharged four months later due to an injury. He then worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) before becoming a contractor for the NSA in 2006.

In May 2013, Snowden began leaking classified information to journalists about the U.S. government’s mass surveillance programs.