Secret Layer Hides Files in Plain Sight

very good
key review info
application features
  • Supports the most popular image formats
  • (2 more, see all...)

Although many people appeal to security through obscurity to keep their files safe from prying eyes, few of them know that this form of protection is called steganography. Today there are several programs that can load various files into different containers, and Secret Layer is one of them.

Secret Layer works with image containers and besides loading any type of content into them, it also allows you to add text messages for the recipient.

Designed as a simple application, Secret Layer is available in two editions, Light ($19.50 / €16.85) and Pro ($45 / €38.90). Before shelling out the money, you can test it for a week, although the trial comes with restrictions such as lack of support for GIF images and encryption.

Once you get past the installation process, which is nothing complicated, you’ll face a simple interface bent on helping you carry out your task as fast as possible. The main elements are two video tutorials (actually they’re just links to YouTube posts) that show how to hide a file in an image with Secret Layer and how to extract it.

If the videos are too long to watch for you, the developer makes available two working modes with the application: a single interface for experts that know exactly what to do and a wizard that guides novices through the job step by step.

The image files supported by Secret Layer are PNG, GIF, BMP and JPG, but only the first three are available in the Light edition.

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If you decide to buy the premium version of the software, you will be able to encrypt the files when hiding them. With eight encryption choices to pick from, you can rest assured that even if your data falls into the wrong hands, it won’t be decrypted.

Working with Secret Layer is easy, even if you are not accustomed to such programs. The wizard-based interface walks you through every step of the job, from adding the container image, the files you want to hide and the text destined for the recipient, to choosing the location for storing the resulting file.

The expert mode is not complicated either, and the only difference is that all the windows in the wizard have been included in a single screen.

On the downside, if you are used to dragging and dropping the files in order to load them into a program, this feature is not supported in Secret Layer.

Extracting the hidden data from the image container does not require more effort than obscuring it. The wizard and expert modes are also available.

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However, things might get complicated if the hidden files have been encrypted, because providing the password alone is not sufficient for retrieving them. The application asks you to identify the exact encryption type together with the key length, otherwise you won’t be able to extract the files. Obviously, this information needs to be readily available to the intended recipient.

Although such programs manage to add the sensitive information to an image and the carrier appears inconspicuous, there is telltale sign of the secret cargo: the size of the resulting file.

In the case of Secret Layer, the developer has this covered by imposing a limit to the amount of data that can be obscured and this is different with each picture (an initial analysis is carried out when you load it in order to determine if it is suitable for the job). There is no restriction regarding the number of files you can add, though.

To make it easy on you, the application offers indication to the fill level when you add the secret information.

The photo carrying the extra load of information differs from the original at pixel level, but the differences are practically invisible to the naked eye and only an in-depth analysis of the two files can reveal them. But even so, the existence of the hidden data cannot be proven.

To stealthily send the information to a recipient, you can upload the image to any website, as long as no tampering occurs.

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The Good

It calculates the amount of data a container can carry after analyzing the image. You can obscure more than one file in a single picture along with a text message for the recipient.

It is easy to use and does not require any computer knowledge; additionally, there is a wizard mode to help beginner users carry out the job.

The Bad

The difference in features between the Light and Pro version are pretty steep and so is the price that more than doubles up for the Pro edition. Lack of drag and drop support is nothing major, but the feature would further increase the usability of the application.

The Truth

Secret Layer is a reliable steganography program. The developer thought about all the aspects involving hiding information in an image container and delivered an easy to use application for the job.

However, it is available for a hefty price that many users may not pay when there are simpler and more financially appealing alternatives for sending data securely.

user interface 5
features 4
ease of use 5
pricing / value 3

final rating 4
Editor's review
very good