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A principal weakness of all encryption systems is that the output data can be ‘seen’ to be encrypted. In other words, encrypted data provides a ‘flag’ on the potential value of the information that has been encrypted. In this paper, we provide a new approach to ‘hiding’ encrypted data in a digital image.
In conventional (symmetric) encryption, the plaintext is usually represented as a binary stream and encrypted using an XOR type operation with a binary cipher. The algorithm used is ideally designed to: (i) generate a maximum entropy cipher so that there is no bias with regard to any bit; (ii) maximize diffusion in terms of key dependency so that a change in any bit of the key can effect any, and potentially all, bits of the cipher. In the work reported here, we consider an approach in which a binary or low-bit plaintext image is encrypted with a decimal integer or floating point cipher using a convolution operation and the output quantized into a 1-bit array generating a binary image ciphertext. This output is then ‘embedded’ in a host image to hide the encrypted information. Embedding is undertaken either in the lowest 1-bit layer or multiple 1-bit layers. Decryption is accomplished by: (i) extracting the binary image from the host image; (ii) correlating the result with the original cipher. In principle, any cipher generator can be used for this purpose and the method has been designed to operate with 24-bit colour images. The approach has a variety of applications and, in this paper, we focus on the authentication and self-authentication of e-documents (letters and certificates, for example) that are communicated over the Internet and are thereby vulnerable to attack (e.g. modification, editing, counterfeiting etc.). In addition to document authentication, the approach considered provides a way of propagating disinformation and a solution to scenarios that require ‘plausible deniability’.
Blackledge, J., Dubovitskiy, D.: A Covert Encryption Method for Applications in Electronic Data Interchange. ISAST Journal on Electronics and Signal Processing, vol: 4, issue: 1, pages: 107 -128, 2009.