(IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security,Vol. 9, No. 9, 2011
Using Image Steganography to Establish CovertCommunication Channels
Keith L Haynes
Center for Security StudiesUniversity of Maryland University CollegeAdelphi, Maryland, USAkeith.firstname.lastname@example.org
Steganography is the art or science of sending and receiving hiddeninformation. This paper investigates the use of image
steganography to breach an organization’s physical and cyber
defenses to steal valuable information. Furthermore, it proposes a steganographic technique that exploits the characteristics of the computer vision process that are favorable for encryption. The result is an image steganographic system that is undetectable and secure.
Keywords- Steganography, computer vision, machine learning,image hiding
Steganography is a form of secret communication that hasbeen in existence for thousands of years. One of the earliestexamples occurred around 440 BC and was noted in an ancient
work entitled “Histories of Herodotus.” Herodotus recounts
how Histiæus shaved the head of his most trusted slave andtattooed it with a message to instigate a revolt against thePersians. The message was covered when the slave's hairregrew . With the advent of digital technology, there hasbeen considerable effort placed in finding effective means of hiding data in digital media; photo images in particular.However, if the hidden message is discovered, its informationis compromised. Encryption, on the other hand, does not seek to hide the information; rather it encodes the information insuch a fashion that it appears meaningless to unauthorizedobservers. If an encrypted data stream is intercepted andcannot be decrypted, it is still evidence that secretcommunication is occurring and may compromise the sender orthe receiver. An ideal form of secret communication wouldcombine the hidden aspect of steganography with a strongcryptographic algorithm.The Internet has evolved into a media rich environmentwith countless numbers of photographic images being posted towebsites or transmitted via email every day. Thus, digitalimages provide an excellent cover for covert communicationsbecause their presence on the Internet does not draw significantattention, other than their visual content. This should be of concern to security personnel because it opens the possibility of undetectable lines of communication being established in and
out of an organization with global reach. “Computer hacking is
not a new crime, nor is insider trading, but the Securities andExchange Commission (SEC) has recently focused its attentionon computer hackers trading on wrongfully obtained inside
information.”  Image steganography can be utilized to
facilitate this type of crime. For example, an employee of alarge corporation could update his/her Facebook page withvacation photos that contain hidden insider trading or othersensitive information. The message does not have to be long.
A message as simple as “sell stock” or “buy stock” can be quiteeffective. In general, “there are five ste
ps to follow to carry outa successful cyber-attack: find the target; penetrate it; co-opt it;conceal what you have done long enough for it to have an
effect; and do something that can’t be reversed.” 
Steganography aids in the concealment of these illegalactivities by providing covert communication channels.This paper proposes a novel method for imageSteganography that represents a major departure fromtraditional approaches to this problem. This method utilizesComputer Vision and Machine Learning techniques to producemessages that are undetectable and if intercepted; cannot bedecrypted without key compromise. Rather than modify theimages, the visual content of the images is interpreted from aseries of images.
Numerous methods of Steganography have been proposedthat utilize images as covers for secret messages. Thesemethods fall into three main categories :
Least Significant Bit (LSB)
encodes a secretmessage into an existing image by modifying the leastsignificant bits of pixel .
utilizes the portion of the image file that isnot required for rendering of the image to write the hiddenmessage.
is similar to LSB, but attempts tominimize distortion caused by changing pixel values. A simpleLSB substitution, which hides data into LSBs directly, is easilyimplemented but will yield a low quality stego-image. In orderto achieve a good quality stego-image, a substitution matrix canbe used to transform the secret data values prior to embeddinginto the cover image. However, there can be difficulty infinding a suitable matrix.