PIRANHA: an engine for a methodology of detecting covert communication via image-based steganography

Pilson, Christopher
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Electrical and Computer Engineering

"In current cutting-edge steganalysis research, model-building and machine learning has been utilized to detect steganography. However, these models are computationally and cognitively cumbersome, and are specifically and exactly targeted to attack one and only one type of steganography. The model built and utilized in this thesis has shown capability in detecting a class or family of steganography, while also demonstrating that it is viable to construct a minimalist model for steganalysis. The notion of detecting steganographic primitives or families is one that has not been discussed in literature, and would serve well as a ""first-pass"" steganographic detection methodology. The model built here serves this end well, and it must be kept in mind that the model presented is posited to work as a front-end broad-pass filter for some of the more computationally advanced and directed stganalytic algorithms currently in use. This thesis attempts to convey a view of steganography and steganalysis in a manner more utilitarian and immediately useful to everyday scenarios. This is vastly different from a good many publications that treat the topic as one relegated only to cloak-and-dagger information passing. The subsequent view of steganography as primarily a communications tool useable by petty information brokers and the like directs the text and helps ensure that the notion of steganography as a ""digital dead-drop box"" is abandoned in favor of a more grounded approach. As such, the model presented underperforms specialized models that have been presented in current literature, but also makes use of a large image sample space (747 images) as well as images that are contextually diverse and representative of those seen in wide use. In future applications by either law-enforcement or corporate officials, it is hoped that the model presented in this thesis can aid in rapid and targeted responses without causing undue strain upon an eventual human operator. As such, a design constraint that was utilized for this research favored a False Negative as opposed to a False Positive - this methodology helps to ensure that, in the event of an alert, it is worthwhile to apply a more directed attack against the flagged image."