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Copyright 2003, Marchany

Hiding Text in MP3 Files
Randy Marchany
VA Tech Computing Center
Blacksburg, VA 24060
Copyright 2003, Marchany
 Hackers and Identity thieves are constantly
coming up with ways to subvert computer &
network defenses.
 Steganography (literal meaning: covered
writing) is one way to accomplish this.
 Steganography is the art of passing
information in a manner that the very
existence of the message is unknown.

Copyright 2003, Marchany
Audio Steganography Basics
 K. Weeks note that digital
steganography is based on the fact that
artifacts like bitmaps and audio files
contain redundant information.
 Compression techniques like JPEG and
MP3 eliminate part of the redundancy
allowing the file to be compressed.
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Audio Steganography Basics
 With DigSteg, you replace some of the
redundant information with other data.
 The Human Auditory System (HAS) operates
over a wide dynamic range of frequencies but
it’s fairly poor with respect to its differential
 Loud sounds tend to mask out software
sounds easily. This gives us a clue on possible
candidates for DigSteg masking.
Copyright 2003, Marchany
Ways to Hide Data in Audio

 Low-bit encoding replaces the LSB of
information in each sampling point with
a coded binary string.
 Can encode large amounts of hidden
data in a given audio signal at the
examples of introducing significant
noise at the upper limits.
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Ways to Hide Data in Audio
 Phase encoding substitutes the phase of
an initial audio segment with a
reference to the phase that represents
the data. The phase of subsequent
segments is adjusted in order to
preserve the relative phase between
 More complicated than low-bit.
Copyright 2003, Marchany
Ways to Hide Data in Audio
 Spread Spectrum spreads the encoded
data across as much of the frequency
spectrum as possible.
 Makes it difficult for an adversary to
find the data unless they have access to
and or reconstruct the pseudo-random
signal used to spread the data across
the frequency range.
Copyright 2003, Marchany
Ways to Hide Data in Audio
 Echo Data Hiding embeds data into a host
signal by introducing an echo. The data are
hidden by varying 3 parameters of the echo:
 Initial amplitude
 Decay rate
 Offset
 The echo blends as the offset between the
original and the echo decreases. The echo is
perceived as the original sound.
Copyright 2003, Marchany
MP3 in a Nutshell
 MP3 = ISO-MPEG Audio Layer-3
 Basic principle is the audio signal
contains a significant portion of info
that can be discarded w/o the average
listener noticing the change.
 How telephones work.
Copyright 2003, Marchany
MP3 in a Nutshell
 Layer-3 encoder uses 2 nested iteration
 Inner loop is a rate loop.
 Outer loop is a noise control/distortion
 MP3stego tool operates within the MP3
encoding process. It hides data during
data compression.

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 Created by Fabien Petitcolas
 The secret data is compressed,
encrypted and then hidden in the MP3
bit stream.
 Hiding process takes place in the inner
Copyright 2003, Marchany
 Encode –E secret_text.txt –P
passphrase hells_bells.wav
 Decode –X –P passphrase
 Example compresses hells_bells.wav with
secret_text.txt into hells_bells.mp3.
 To decrypt, you need the password
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 The .wav file must be a mono 16 bit file
encoded with pulse code modulation at
44100 Hz.
 MP3Stego can be used to insert a
copyright marking system for MP3 files.
 Makes it easier to track illegal copies. 
Copyright 2003, Marchany
 “MP3Stego: Hiding Text in MP3 Files”
by Mark Noto, SANS GIAC paper
 “On the limits of steganography” by
Anderson, R. & Petticolas F.\
 “Hiding in plain sight” by K. Weeks