The VICE Channels

    Introducing the NSA-Proof Font

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    Image: ZXX

    At a moment when governments and corporations alike are hellbent on snooping through your personal digital messages, it'd sure be nice if there was a font their dragnets couldn't decipher. So Sang Mun tried to build one.

    Sang, a recent graduate from the Rhode Island Schoold of Design (RISD), has unveiled ZXX—a "a disruptive typeface" that he says is much more difficult for data collectors like the NSA to decrypt. He's made it free to download on his website

    "The project started with a genuine question: How can we conceal our fundamental thoughts from artificial intelligences and those who deploy them?" he writes. "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. It can be applied to huge amounts of data, or to personal correspondence."

    He named it after the Library Congress's labeling code ZXX, which archivists employ when they find a book that contains "no linguistic content."

    He built six different styles (Sans, Bold, Camo, False, Noise, and Xed), each of which is "designed to thwart machine intelligences in a different way."

    See them in action below:

    Sang's intent is expressly political (scores of hackers have already pointed out that the font won't work as an effective encryption method). On a separate website for ZXX, he's drafted a manifesto and presented it alongside posters displaying his crypto-fonts. 

    "This physical, mental and technological growing invasion of privacy and surveillance dehumanizes us," it says. "The militarization of cyberspace must stop. If not, it's only a matter of time before we live in a Tectologic Orwellian Society." 

    He goes on to explain the impetus behind creating these fonts.

    "This project counteracts the status quo--a fatigueless fight to retrieve our civil rights, liberties and freedom back from the autocrats."

    Sang has no illusions that even a clever cryptographic font—which he says you can use in email messages to shield them from snoops and font-recognition bots—will remain encoded for long. They're not meant to be long-term tools with which to combat the NSA. Rather, he views them as an awareness-raising measure.

    "This project will not fully solve the problems we are facing now," he writes, " but hopefully will raise some peculiar questions."