Steganography and Steganography Tools
Detailed description of the area researched
Technology involved in the area
Future trends in the area
Example companies involved in the area
Regulatory issues surrounding the area
Global implications for the area
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Over time, internet users have become wary of their data being viewed by others and have resulted in using different approaches to maximize the privacy and secrecy of their online interactions. One of the methods that have been in existence since the letter era is steganography whereby messages between two people are hidden within another file in a manner that they cannot be seen by a third party. Unlike encryption which ensures that the messages are not understood but one can tell that there is some communication going on, steganography clears any existing evidence of communication taking place between two parties. Steganography can hence be used to send news and information without any form of censoring or fear that the messages may be intercepted or traced.
Steganography from antiquity to the modern digital age
Steganography may have received attention in recent years given the increased cases of cybercrime, but the technique has always been in existence from way back. It is believed that during the Golden Age in Greece, steganography was largely in use and hence the origin of the practice can be traced in Greece. Wax was melted from wax tablets used for inscribing messages in the underlying wood, where the wax would then be reapplied on the piece of wood giving it an appearance of a new and unused wax tablet. The tablets would then be taken to the designated receiver with no suspicion of any underlying message. During the American Revolution, invisible ink which would glow when passed over a flame was used as a means of secret communication by the British and the Americans. Steganography is, therefore, an ancient technology that has now gained its space within the digital arena and has proven to be a security measure especially when used in combination with encryption and coding cybersecurity techniques. Besides the ability to communicate without being censored, steganography makes it possible to store data on a certain location. Some sensitive data such as private banking information, military secrets, and health history records can be stored in a cover source (Das, 2014). When one needs to retrieve part of the data such as health history from the cover source, one does not have to worry over revealing the baking information or the military secrets as they will remain hidden and it will be impossible to prove that they exist. Steganography can also be used in the implementation of watermarking by making use of various techniques that are applied in the storage of watermarks in data.
Least Significant Bit (LSB) Replacement and Matching is one of the technologies that make use of steganography. The technology comprises two schemes namely sequential embedding and scattered embedding. Sequential embedding may use an image and replace the pixels’ LSBs with the intended message, in a sequence. Scattered embedding inscribes the message randomly over the image in an attempt to control the embedding locations. Tools such as S-Tools and Hide4PGP can be used as representative of the LSB steganography. GIFs and PNG images, as well as WAV audio deposited in a lossless format, are used as carriers by the LSB tools. LSB replacement is used in place of the carrier’s LSBs by directly replacing inscribing the message bits and making an introduction of the values that appear in pairs with the intent of switching into each other. Matching will take place when the LSB of the cover pixel will match that of the secret bit (Kadry & Nasr, 2013).
Bit Plane Complexity Segmentation (BPCS) Steganography is used to hide secret data by making use of the block-replacing technique. Every one of them but planes of the image used is split into segments of the same size pixel-blocks grouped into informative and noise-like blocks. By inscribing data into the multiple bit planes, the capacity of the BPCS’s can go up to 50% of the data of the cover image.
Companies that make use of Steganography
Many mobile service providers such as Samsung make use of steganography to ensure copyright protection. Record labels in the film and music industry such as Warner Bros also make use of the technique to provide copyright protection. Simply put, a secret copyright notice is inscribed inside an image to identify it as intellectual property. When an image is sold or distributed, recipient identification and time stamp are secretly inscribed behind it which helps to rule out any potential piracy. Watermarks are then used to detect whether the given image has been modified or not (Wayner, 2009).
Networks Steganography is a developing technology that is slowly gaining usage as a branch of information privacy. It involves the exploitation of various types of network protocols that belong to the Opens Systems Interconnection (OSI) reference model. Embedding secret data into the digital media files has proven to consist of two major drawbacks hence the need for network steganography. One of the drawbacks is allowing hiding of only a limited amount of data in a file while the other is making accessible the modified image to forensic experts. The network steganography largely relies on the existing loopholes which enable it to conceal its existence (Zielińska et al., 2011). The limited ability of the end-user to sense minor differences that exist between identical objects while the other loophole makes it possible for the steganograms to pass through the network without being noticed within the intermediate nodes. Network steganography basically promises to take advantage of the imperfect nature of the communication channels, the existence of redundant information within most protocols, and the indefinite nature of some protocols.
The successful application and use of steganography determine on how well its requirements are met. One of the requirements is robustness whereby information is considered robust when it is inscribed in an image and disappears behind it without being destroyed hence making it identifiable by the receiver. Secondly, the information must be undetectable as long as the cover image in which it is embedded draws no suspicion and doubts. Thirdly, the hidden data must achieve the required level of perceptual transparency which is highly dependent on the human visual and audio capabilities. In the case where the hidden data failed to raise the attention of human systems and could neither cause a distinguishable factor on the existence of hidden data on the cover page, then the perceptual transparency is achieved. Lastly, there has to be security in that no other party than the legal receiver can retrieve the embedded data from behind cover (Kumar & Pooja, 2010). The security aspect helps to assure that no targeted attack or hackers can be retrieved the embedded message unless they have full knowledge of the algorithm used to embed the data.
Global Implications of steganography
On a large scale, steganography can be used by terrorists who embed their secret messages in unsuspicious cover sources to communicate within each other and increase acts of terrorism across the globe (Choudhary, 2012). The September 11 attack in 2001 which affected the global economy is a good example of how terrorists can use steganography to cause global damage. It is believed that the terrorists used images to conceal instructions that contained the plot of the entire attack and the images were posted on public websites without being noticed for about three years. Immediately after the attack, the terrorist group al-Qaeda through its leadership released several videos from their Pakistan based hideouts to the Al-Jazeera TV station based in Qatar (Zielińska et al., 2011). The TV station failed to upload the images in bulks as expected which prompted Al-Qaeda to upload the images that were heavily edited all over the internet. The world trade center was coded as architecture, the pentagon was referred to as the arts, while the White House was coded as politics in the messages used in the communication over the internet. Today, terrorists continue to make use of Emails and SMS text messages as well as social media.
Steganography may promise to offer a valuable solution to privacy concerns over the internet, but on the other hand, it provides criminals with an easy way to conduct their criminal activities without being noticed. The technique plays an important role when it comes to secret communication hence the reason it is becoming increasingly important in the computing world. LSB and BPCS steganography are the most efficient tools that allows communication to take place discreetly. The set requirements of robustness, undetectability, and secrecy among others must be met for steganography to be beneficial to the users.
Choudhary, K. (2012). Image steganography and global terrorism. International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research, 3(7), 1-12.
Das, R. (2014). An Investigation on Information Hiding Tools for Steganography. International Journal of Information Security Science, 3(3), 200-208.
Kadry, S., & Nasr, S. (2013). New Generating Technique for Image Steganography. Lecture Notes on Software Engineering, 1(2), 190.
Kumar, A., & Pooja, K. (2010). Steganography-A data hiding technique. International Journal of Computer Applications, 9(7), 19-23.
Wayner, P. (2009). Disappearing cryptography: information hiding: steganography and watermarking. Morgan Kaufmann.
Zielińska, E., Mazurczyk, W., & Szczypiorski, K. (2011). Development trends in steganography. Warsaw University of Technology, Institute of Telecommunications Warsaw, Poland, 00- 665, Nowowiejska, 15, 19.