What is steganography and how does it work?

What if you could hide your secret messages in plain sight? And send seemingly ordinary messages to your friends and family without anyone suspecting that they convey a secret message?

The good news is that it exists. Steganography allows you to hide your messages in plain sight. So what is steganography? What is the difference with cryptography? And how does steganography actually work?


What is steganography?

Steganography is the practice or technique of hiding and concealing information from plain sight. It uses ordinary files such as text, audio, images, videos and even Word or Excel sheets to conceal information.

Steganography is taken from the two Greek words “steganos” and “graphia”. “Steganos” means “to hide, conceal or cover”, while “graphia” means “to write or study”.

The history of steganography

The technique of steganography is not recent; it is an age-old practice that has existed for centuries. In 500 BC. BC, a king of Miletus once tattooed a message on the scalp of a slave, let the slave’s hair grow back, and then sent the slave to his son-in-law. The son-in-law then shaved the slave’s head to read this secret message. No one traveling with the slave would have guessed that he carried an important message on his scalp.

Steganography has changed a lot over the years! There have been wax cases covering tablets with secret messages, and even seemingly regular designs with deeper meanings. And then there’s the one you might be most familiar with: invisible ink. People have been using steganography for a very long time.

Steganography and Cryptography

Steganography and cryptography are two similar concepts, but they are different. Cryptography is the practice of hiding or securing information from unwanted parties. Cryptography is used to protect data and transmit it securely between two or more parties. There are many techniques in cryptography, two of which are encryption and steganography.

Encryption is a technique of cryptography that works by converting the information you want to transmit into a cipher that can only be accessed and understood by the person with a special key.

The difference between steganography and other forms of cryptography is that steganography hides information in plain sight or uses ordinary daily files; while using other cryptography techniques, you know that secret information is being transmitted. Steganography is the safest method because it does not reveal the fact that information is being transmitted.

However, steganography can be combined with other cryptographic techniques to create an even more secure mode of transmitting information. Information can be encrypted using cryptographic algorithms and then masked using steganography.

How does steganography work?

So if steganography involves embedding private information into files, how does that actually work?

A popular technique in steganography is the insertion of the least significant bit (LSB). Here, the least significant bit of a file is inserted with information. Modifying this bit will not cause any noticeable alteration in the file used during the modification. In image files, data is inserted into one of the pixels in the image. LSB also works in audio and video files.

Other steganography techniques include data ordering and letter substitution.

How is steganography used today?

Steganography has many uses today and although this technique has been adopted by malicious actors and actors to carry out crimes, it also has positive uses.

digital watermark

Digital watermarks are pieces of code or data embedded in media files to protect against copyright infringement and to show ownership. Digital watermarks use steganography to create invisible watermarks that do not distort the image, while being able to track if it has been used without permission.

Secure Information

That goes without saying. Steganography is used by government officials and law enforcement to send highly confidential information to other parties without arousing suspicion.

Securing your data with steganography

Steganography, when combined with encryption processes, is an effective way to secure and transmit data. With the increasing rate of data theft and interception, you need to be more intentional about securing your personal information, which makes steganography an important technique to know.

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