Indicators Take note: Do not trust trimming tools


Don’t punish us Scene Intended for a parody of the science fiction series “Red Dwarf”. Nonsense The development of image forensics—where TV and movie characters can perform seemingly magical image manipulations—contains an important kernel of truth: it is indeed possible to extract images and documents from a variety of work-related computer applications. Some of the suites that include its capabilities include Google Workspace, Microsoft Office, and Adobe Acrobat.

The ability to extract images and documents creates risks for sources claiming that cropped material does not contain the original uncropped content.

One of the risks is that for some programs downstream cropping is possible for viewers or readers of the document, not just the file’s creators or editors. Official instruction manuals, help pages, and promotional materials may mention that cropping is reversible, but this document fails to note that these operations can sometimes be reversed by viewers of any image or document.

For example, Google’s help page mentions that it may be a cropped image Reset In its original form, the guide is for the owner of the document. “If you want to undo the changes you’ve made to your photo,” the help page says, “Revert the image to its original photo.” The page does not state that if a reader is viewing a Google Doc created by someone else and an editor wants to undo changes to a photo, the reader can reset the image without having editing permission for the document.

For users with viewer-only access permissions, right-clicking on the image does not provide a “reset image” option. In this case, all one has to do is right-click on the image, select copy and paste the image into a new Google Doc. Right-clicking on the image pasted in the new document allows the reader to select “Reset Image”. (I put it together Example To show how crop reversal works in this case.)

An original uncropped image in a Google Doc can also be viewed by downloading the document’s “webpage (.html, zip)”. The uncropped image will be in the downloaded images folder.

Enterprise users have even written code that makes it easier to view uncropped images. In places like GitHub, they Post articles It can be loaded into web browsers to display uncropped images by default in any viewable Google Docs.

Although Microsoft Office allows you to crop images just like Google. Instructions Note that full images can be protected: “Crops of the image are not removed from the file and may be visible to others.” The manual provides additional directions for deleting the cropped parts of the image in the applications.

Uncropped versions of images can be stored not only in Office applications, but also in the metadata of the file itself. A photograph taken by a modern digital camera contains all kinds of metadata. Many image files record text-based metadata, such as the camera make and model, or the GPS coordinates where the image was captured. Some photos also include binary data, such as a thumbnail version of the original photo, that can remain in the file’s metadata even after the photo has been edited in an image editor.

Images and photos aren’t the only digital files that are prone to cropping: some digital documents can also be uncropped. While Adobe Acrobat has a page clipping tool, the instructions Point out “Information is hidden, not disposable,” he says. By manually setting the margins to zero, it is possible to restore previously cropped areas in the PDF file.

The main takeaway for reporters, whistleblowers, and journalists working with sensitive sources is to never trust the crop function provided by professional-grade applications and other document and image manipulation software and services. It is always wise to assume that vintage work is indestructible – original preserved – or reversible.

Using images and documents as tools should be well removed from metadata ExifTool And Danger zone. Additionally, sensitive materials should not be edited through online tools, as original copies of uploaded materials have the potential to be protected and disclosed.

Especially when dealing with materials that need trimming, using the tried and true analog method of scissors can be the safest way to go.

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