[An edited version of this paper appears in the July 2004 issue of Forensic Science Communications. This version is updated with current information and links.]
Steganography is the art of covered or hidden writing. The purpose of steganography is covert communication-to hide the existence of a message from a third party. This paper is intended as a high-level technical introduction to steganography for those unfamiliar with the field. It is directed at forensic computer examiners who need a practical understanding of steganography without delving into the mathematics, although references are provided to some of the ongoing research for the person who needs or wants additional detail. Although this paper provides a historical context for steganography, the emphasis is on digital applications, focusing on hiding information in online image or audio files. Examples of software tools that employ steganography to hide data inside of other files as well as software to detect such hidden files will also be presented.
Steganography is the art of covered or hidden writing. The purpose of steganography is covert communication to hide a message from a third party. This differs from cryptography, the art of secret writing, which is intended to make a message unreadable by a third party but does not hide the existence of the secret communication. Although steganography is separate and distinct from cryptography, there are many analogies between the two, and some authors categorize steganography as a form of cryptography since hidden communication is a form of secret writing (Bauer 2002). Nevertheless, this paper will treat steganography as a separate field.