The Information Hiding Patterns Project

This project is driven by a consortium of several scientists from seven institutions spread over four countries. We aim at unifying the terminology and taxonomy for hiding methods in steganography.

Background

Steganography embraces several hiding techniques which spawn across multiple domains, such as digital media steganography, text steganography, cyber-physical systems steganography, network steganography (network covert channels), local covert channels, and out-of-band covert channels. However, the related terminology is not unified among the different domains. To cope with this, a prime attempt has been done in 2015, with the introduction of the so-called hiding patterns (Wendzel et al., 2015), which allow to describe hiding techniques in a more abstract manner. Despite significant enhancements, the main limitation of the original taxonomy is that it only considers the case of network steganography.

Contribution

Therefore, our key paper (Wendzel et al., 2021) reviews both the terminology and the taxonomy of hiding patterns as to make them more general, i.e. applicable to all steganography domains. Specifically, hiding patterns are split into those that describe the embedding and those that describe the representation of hidden data within the cover object.

As a first research action, we focus on embedding hiding patterns and we show how they can be applied to multiple domains of steganography instead of being limited to the network scenario. Additionally, we exemplify representation hiding patterns using network steganography.

Have a look at our video presentation:

Video presentation of CUING'21 (extended version)

This website especially provides the pattern catalog of our latest paper to the scientific community and aims for discussion and extension of the catalog. Our pattern catalog will serve as a basis for future steganography novelty evaluation. In addition, our approach lays the foundation for pattern-based countermeasures: While many current countermeasures were developed for specific channels, a pattern-oriented approach allows to apply one countermeasure to multiple channels using countermeasure variation (see Wendzel, Link, Eller and Mazurczyk, 2019). Hence, future countermeasure development can focus on patterns, and the development of real-world protection against covert channels is greatly simplified.

What is the basis for this catalog?

We described the details of the pattern-based approach in Wendzel et al., 2015, which also provides various additional ideas related to hiding patterns, such as pattern variation and pattern hopping.

Scientific Fundamentals of Network Information Hiding

Another core interest of our research lies in the `science of security’, applied to (network) information hiding. For instance, we perform research on how information hiding methods are and should actually be described in the scientific literature Wendzel, Mazurczyk and Zander, 2016. We also tried to answer the answer the question how research on (network) information hiding can actually be evaluated in terms of creativity (i.e. novelty and applicability, see this paper. In another research work, we analyze the aspect of how network information hiding can be part of higher education, see this paper. Therefore, we apply the above-mentioned concept of hiding patterns.

References

Key Papers

S. Wendzel, L. Caviglione, W. Mazurczyk, A. Mileva, J. Dittmann, C. Krätzer, K. Lamshöft, C. Vielhauer, L. Hartmann, J. Keller, T. Neubert (2021): A Revised Taxonomy of Steganography Embedding Patterns, In: Proc. 16th International Conference on Availability, Reliability and Security (ARES 2021). ACM, 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3465481.3470069

S. Wendzel, S. Zander, B. Fechner, C. Herdin (2015): Pattern-based Survey and Categorization of Network Covert Channel Techniques, Computing Surveys (CSUR), Vol. 47, Issue 3, pp. 50:1-26, ACM. (The version originally submitted to the journal is available on ResearchGate: download.)

S. Wendzel, W. Mazurczyk, S. Zander (2016): Unified Description Method for Network Information Hiding Methods, in: Journal of Universal Computer Science (J.UCS), Vol. 22, Issue 11. (This work proposes a method for the description of hiding methods in a unified and comparable structure.)

Papers That Added Additional Aspects

S. Wendzel, F. Link, D. Eller, W. Mazurczyk (2019): Detection of Size Modulation Covert Channels Using Countermeasure Variation. Journal of Universal Computer Science (JUCS) 25:1396–1416.

W. Mazurczyk, S. Wendzel, K. Cabaj (2018): Towards Deriving Insights into Data Hiding Methods Using Pattern-based Approach. In: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Availability, Reliability and Security (ARES). ACM, pp 10:1–10:10.

W. Mazurczyk, S. Wendzel, S. Zander, A. Houmansadr, K. Szczypiorski (2016): Information Hiding in Communication Networks, Wiley-IEEE. (Chapters 3 and 8 contain discussions on hiding patterns, basically on the basis of the above-mentioned CACM article but with an extension of timing-based patterns.)

S. Wendzel and W. Mazurczyk (2016): An Educational Network Protocol for Covert Channel Analysis Using Patterns (Poster), in Proc. 23rd ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS’2016), pp. 1739-1741. (This work explains how our patterns can be used in higher education. You can also download our conference poster (PDF).).

S. Wendzel, C. Palmer (2015): Creativity in Mind: Evaluating and Maintaining Advances in Network Steganographic Research, in: Journal of Universal Computer Science (J.UCS), Vol. 21, Issue 12, pp. 1684-1705. (The article provides a framework on how to apply hiding patterns in scientific practice, especially within peer-review.)