You are on page 1of 23



Steganography is the art and science to hide data in a cover that can be text, audio, image, video, etc. ORIGIN : Greek words stegos meaning cover and grafia meaning writing, defining it as covered writing.

Greek historian Herodotus writes of a nobleman, Histaeus, who needed to communicate with his sonin-law in Greece. He shaved the head of one of his most trusted slaves and tattooed the message onto the slave's scalp. When the slave's hair grew back the slave was dispatched with the hidden message. In the Second World War the Microdot technique was developed by the Germans. Information, especially photographs, was reduced in size until it was the size of a typed period. Extremely difficult to detect, a normal cover message was sent over an insecure channel with one of the periods on the paper containing hidden information.

Steganography vs. Cryptography

Cryptography hides the contents of a secret message from a malicious people, whereas steganography even conceals the existence of the message. In cryptography, the structure of a message is scrambled to make it meaningless and unintelligible unless the decryption key is available, Whereas in steganography does not alter the structure of the secret message, but hides it inside a cover-image so it cannot be seen.

Categories of Steganography

In Image Steganography the information is hidden exclusively in images.

Hiding Data in Images
Even though audio and video files offer a much higher capacity to hide information, digital images are more easily disguised and can be exchanged on a much lower bandwidth. Image steganography techniques can be broadly classified into two categoriesspatial domain techniques and transform domain techniques.

Spatial Domain technique

Spatial domain technique directly modify the image intensity values to embed the secret information. The most common spatial domain technique is the least significant bit (LSB) manipulation technique, where the LSB of the each intensity value is replaced with one bit of the secret data. Other spatial domain technique include contrast adjustment, noise insertion etc.

Transform Domain technique

Transform domain technique modify the transform coefficients of the image. The transform coefficients are obtained by applying transforms, such as the Fourier transform, Discrete Cosine transform (DCT) or the Wavelet transform, to the image. Since most images are compressed by manipulating transform domain coefficients, the transform domain techniques add a fair amount of robustness against the destruction of the secret data due to lossy image compression.

It was used in 9/11 WTC Attack in 2001. For Communication, Terrorists used Pictures Mail of few celebrities. For about 6-7 months, no security professional have any idea what these pictures mail are.

Applications of Image Steganography

Covert military communications. Covert police communications. Digital Rights Management protecting intellectual property such as images, music, electronic books, etc. Embedding textual data in medical images would better ensure that the picture belongs to a particular patient. There are some nefarious applications also. Such asmoney laundering, drug running, child pornography, spying (good or bad depending upon which side youre on!), terrorism etc.

The Steganography consists of mainly four modules Encryption, Hide message, Retrieve message and Decryption. Encryption and Hide message form the modules at the sender side. Retrieve message and Decryption form the modules at the Receiver side.

Secret key can be used for encryption of the message to be hidden. It provides security by converting it into a cipher text, which will be difficult for hackers to decrypt. Moreover if the message is password protected, then while retrieving message, the retriever has to enter the correct password for viewing the message.

Hide Message
Hiding message is the most important module of steganography. It involves embedding the message into the cover text. Each pixel typically has three numbers associated with it, one each for red, green, and blue intensities, and these values often range from 0-255.In order to hide the message, data is first converted into byte format and stored in a byte array. The message is then encrypted and then embed each bits into the LSB position of each pixel position. The least significant (right most) bit of each 8-bit byte has been co-opted to hide a text message.

Retrieve Message
It involves retrieving the embed message from the file (independent of the file format). Once the message has been retrieved it has to be converted into original message or file. This can be done by reading the embedded data from the master file. The read data will be in the bytes format. This message has to be converted into the suitable output file format.

Decryption involves converting the cipher text into decrypted format. Secret key can be used for decryption of the message that is hidden. It provides security by converting the cipher text, into the original data message or file.

Classical technique for Image Steganography

Least significant bit (LSB)

The simplest steganographic technique that embed the bits of the message directly into least significant bit plane of the cover-image in a deterministic sequence. The least significant bit (the 8th bit) of some or all of the bytes inside an image is changed to a bit of the secret message. When using a 24-bit image, a bit of each of the red, green and blue color components can be used, since they are each represented by a byte. In other words, one can store 3 bits in each pixel.

An 800 600 pixel image, can thus store a total amount of 1,440,000 bits or 180,000 bytes of embedded data. For example, a grid for 3 pixels of a 24-bit image can be as follows: (00101101 00011100 11011100) (10100110 11000100 00001100) (11010010 10101101 01100011) When the number 200, which binary representation is 11001000, is embedded into the least significant bits of this part of the image, the resulting grid is as follows: (00101101 00011101 11011100) (10100110 11000101 00001100) (11010010 10101100 01100011)

Disadvantage of LSB technique

For the hiding capacity, the size of information to be hidden relatively depends to the size of the cover-image. The message size must be smaller than the image. A large capacity allows the use of the smaller cover-image for the message of fixed size, and thus decreases the bandwidth required to transmit the stego-image. Another weakness is an attacker can easily destruct the message by removing the entire LSB plane with very little change in the perceptual quality of the modified stego-image.


------------------------------------------------------Wavelet Transform Technique

------------------------------------------------------As compared to transform domain data hiding methods, this scheme can provide a larger capacity for data hiding without sacrificing the cover image quality. This is achieved through retaining integrity of the wavelet coefficients at high capacity embedding.

Wavelet transform technique

Wavelets transform (WT) converts spatial domain information to the frequency domain information. Wavelets are used in the image steganographic model because the wavelet transform clearly partitions the high-frequency and low-frequency information on a pixel by pixel basis. The discrete wavelet transform (DWT) method is favored over the discrete cosine transform (DCT) method, owing to the resolution that the WT provides to the image at various levels. Wavelets are mathematical functions that divide data into frequency components, which makes them ideal for image compression. In contrast with the JPEG format, they are far better at approximating data with sharp discontinuities.

Evaluation of different techniques

All steganographic algorithms have to comply with a few basic requirements. The most important requirement is that a steganographic algorithm has to be imperceptible. There are several parameters to measure the performance of the steganographic system. These parameters are as follows:

Invisibility Independent of file format Robustness against statistical attacks Robustness against image manipulation Payload capacity Unsuspicious files